Before you cross a college off of your wish list due to “college sticker price shock”, understand that the real cost of college is the “net price” (list price minus the amount of financial aid) which may make the situation look a lot less dire.
After grants are applied, the average undergraduate pays significantly less than sticker price, or “rack rate”. For students eligible for significant aid, it is not unusual for the “net price” of attending a private college to be less than a public university,
Many colleges offer need-blind admissions which means it doesn’t hurt to apply for financial aid. You may find that you are eligible for a grant, scholarship, low-interest loan or work-study program.
If a college offers you a financial aid package that isn’t sufficient, don’t be afraid to negotiate. Colleges and universities are competing to attract students and there may be room for such negotiation. Experts advise you to wait until you have received all of their financial packages before asking your top-choice college(s) to reconsider or match better offers from other schools.
To find out how much a specific college “really” costs, and to compare your financial aid awards, check out the College Board’s Compare Your Financial Aid Awards tool.