Paying for College

College financial aid packages are a combination of grants (or scholarships), loans, and work-study jobs. Financial aid is calculated for each academic year, and the net price is the full cost of attendance (COA) minus financial aid (excluding parent loans). Each college and university has its own policies governing financial aid awards. It is premature to screen colleges for application purposes solely based on the published cost of attendance (tuition, room, board, books, fees, and other living expenses) because financial aid occurs with an offer of admission and considers an individual’s unique situation.

Colleges range from need-blind (ability to pay is not part of the admission decision) to need-aware, need-conscious, or need-sensitive (ability to pay may determine admission). It is up to students and their families to decide whether applying to a college makes financial sense. Need-blind colleges may not meet an admitted student’s full demonstrated need, a situation called gapping. Need-aware policies may affect applicants at the lower academic range of a college’s applicant pool.

Public universities may allocate a percentage of admissions slots for out-of-state and international students, who pay more tuition than in-state students. For California students, some out-of-state arrangements may be competitive with in-state tuition. Private colleges with the most competitive admissions process tend to be need-blind and meet full demonstrated need.

CollegesGPS considers the family’s financial preferences when building a college list. CollegesGPS can also advise on curriculum planning to reduce overall college costs or enhance academics.


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