From determining EFC to financial aid eligibility to how much a student can realistically pay back after college, the process can feel overwhelming. It is not about choosing the college that is the right fit academically only, but financial fit is very important too. 

In order to lend some clarity to students and their parents in the midst of college applications and admissions, Jodiokun – blogger at CFAA, chatted with Sabrina Manville, co-founder of Edmit. Edmit was founded to create greater price and value transparency in higher education, reducing debt and improving outcomes for students and their families.

In guiding students through the process of choosing the right college, Sabrina speaks of evaluating affordability of tuition, weight the private schools versus grants and scholarships offered by public schools and more.

What is the first step to determining which colleges are affordable?

Affordability means something different to every student and family considering college. The best, first measure of affordability is knowing your family’s expected family contribution, or EFC, which is the amount you will pay out of pocket, after grants and loans.

The EFC that colleges use to judge your financial need is based on the FAFSA or CSS Profile. But you may have a different number in mind for what you can contribute.

When it comes to affordability, is there something to be said for private versus public schools?

Both the sticker price and the average net price of public colleges are cheaper than private – meaning that, even considering financial aid, public college students frequently pay less. That can even be true for out-of-state public colleges.

BUT, top private universities often have more to spend in financial aid than public colleges. So, if you have high financial need, or are an exceptional applicant, you may be able to find a more affordable option at private schools.

Edmit can provide you with personal estimates and data on what other students like you have paid at the institutions you’re considering.

Once students and parents know their budget, what data should they be looking at to determine a college’s true price?

There are many great tools to determine a college’s true price. College websites are required to host calculators for the net price, or the cost a student will pay out-of-pocket after financial aid is deducted.

But, net price calculators are based on a formula and don’t share what students like them actually paid. Often they don’t include merit aid. Edmit shows students what aid students like them received at an institution, as well as common non-tuition expenses.

Having a clear picture of the true cost and the likely financial aid award will help a student assess the real value and fit of the institution.

Financial fit is as important as other types of fit! Make sure you feel comfortable that you are paying the right price for the right school, with outcomes (debt level, employment rates, graduation rates) that will meet your goals.

Read more on, and ensure that you are choosing the right college for yourself.