What is affordability

Affordability means that the amount a college expects you to pay is a good match for what you actually can pay. Affordability is a good financial fit between a particular college, student, and family.

I can help you research colleges, evaluate your prospects for aid, and create your own affordability stories for the colleges you are considering. Before you apply to any college, you should know how much aid you would need at that college, and you should have some reason to believe that you might be able to get the aid you need.

Learn about colleges

Colleges have financial policies and track records that you can research ahead of time, so you can make an educated guess about the level of financial support you might receive at each school.

Some colleges meet the full financial need of all the students they admit. At colleges like this, you want to find out: What are my chances of being admitted? How much will the college expect my family to pay for our part, and will that amount work for us?

Many colleges offer the best financial packages to the top students in their applicant pool. At colleges like this, you want to find out: Where do I stand in relation to other students who are admitted to this college? Am I strong enough to attract a good aid package here?

Other colleges don't have much aid to offer, but they keep their costs low. At these colleges, you might be able to cover the costs if you have enough resources of your own or if you qualify for federal or state aid.

Start early

Try to learn how college finances work before you start your college search. This will allow you to build your college list with affordability in mind. You can investigate your financial prospects at each college at the same time you're looking into the academic programs, social life, athletics, and everything else.

Create affordability stories

When you apply to a particular college, you can't know in advance if that college will offer you a wonderful merit scholarship or a great financial aid package. But if you do some research and planning ahead of time, you can (and should!) be able to create an affordability story for each college.

An affordability story is a plausible scenario of how you and your family might be able to cover the costs at that school. Affordability stories are about possibilities, not certainties. They are thinking tools, to help you envision and plan for the expenses of college.

Examples:

Emily's affordability story for UC Davis
  • UC Davis costs about $31,000/year.
  • Based on my family's savings and $50,000/year income, I hope to get about $17,500/year in state, federal, and UC Davis grants.
  • I could earn $3,000 in the summer and $3,000 during the school year.
  • I'm willing to take out a federal student loan of $5,500/year.
  • My parents and other family could pay the remaining $2,000/year from savings and income.
  • I'm planning to apply for several scholarships, and if I get any of them, I will be able to borrow and work less.
Johan's affordability story for Rhodes College
  • Rhodes costs about $52,500/year.
  • With my family's savings and $200,000/year income, I would not qualify for need-based aid.
  • But I'm very strong in the arts, and I think I might be a good candidate for one of the $13,000/year Fine Arts Fellowships offered at Rhodes.
  • I could earn $3,000 in the summer and $1,500 in the school year.
  • I'm willing to take out a federal student loan of $3,000/year.
  • My parents could pay the remaining $35,000/year from their income and savings.