Students and parents who make a plan to pay for college
have more success making college affordable
. It begins with a conversation during the junior year of high school, or early on in the senior year, to determine who is going to pay for college and which components. Through this discussion, parents can set the ground rules and give students realistic expectations.
That’s why calculators are vital to the college planning process. They provide a pretty accurate estimate on college costs, financial aid packages, and Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is ultimately determined on the FAFSA
To help you start the conversation – and to assist you in your plan to pay for college – we’re highlighting our favorite student calculators from our sister site, FinAid
. These calculators are tried and true and should be utilized by students and their parents/guardians to make the most informed college decisions.
Expected Family Contribution (EFC) Calculator
The best way to determine your estimated financial aid package is:
COA – EFC = Financial Need
COA stands for Cost of Attendance, and EFC stands for Expected Family Contribution. The cost of attendance can be found on any college website under their Financial Aid section. Filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid
, or FAFSA, determines the EFC. The above equation informs you of your Financial Need.
Once the FAFSA is filed, schools take the Financial Need number and attempt to bridge the gap between what you can pay and how much college costs. They may do so with grants and/or work study. However, they may also include student loans in their financial aid package
An EFC Calculator can help you determine how much your family will be expected to pay towards college. This is a great calculator to utilize during your junior, or even sophomore, year of high school.
Quick EFC Calculator
If the EFC Calculator is too involved – or you don’t know all of the responses just yet – you can utilize the Quick EFC Calculator to estimate financial aid as well.
As with both calculators, if you do not have exact figures, it’s ok to estimate. The numbers do not need to be approximate for you to get an idea of what your financial aid package will be. These calculators are just meant to give you an idea so that you can make the best educated choices as you navigate the college search
and application process.
Loan Payment Calculator
As you come face-to-face with the realities of paying for college, you may find that between your family’s contribution and your financial aid package, you still do not have enough resources to pay the full cost of attendance.
Your only remaining option may be to take out student loans to cover the cost of attending college. Though that can sound scary to a lot of students and parents, it doesn’t have to be. Just follow a few basic rules for borrowing:
- Never borrow more than your annual salary after graduation. Research annual salaries of jobs that interest you – or find the average starting salary for all college graduates. That will give you a limit on how much to borrow.
- Borrow federal first, then seek out private loans. Federal student loans have the lowest interest rates. By borrowing federal first, you save more money over time on your student loan payments.
- Estimate loan payments before borrowing. To help you make the wisest student loan decisions, it’s vital to estimate your monthly payments after graduation. Before you even borrow, you’ll have a big picture view of how student loans will impact your life after graduation.
Loan Comparison Calculator
Finally, you may find that there are a plethora of student loan options out there – so how do you decide which is right for you? Before you decide, compare student loans through a Loan Comparison Calculator.
Make Informed Decisions to Pay for College
You do not need to enter the college search and application process blindly. In fact, it’s highly discouraged. Having conversations about finances and running the numbers beforehand will prepare you and your family to make the best college decisions
In addition to the above calculators, FinAid
has even more to help you make informed decisions about your college choices. These free resources can make all the difference in your college search.