How to Estimate your Student Bill


It is very important that you estimate your bill before accepting any awards on your award letter. Estimating your bill can help you compare schools equally, determine what school to attend, assist in determining what award(s) to accept, decline, or reduce, and identify how to pay the remaining amount owed.

4 Steps to Estimate Your Student Bill

1. Gather all award letters 

The award letter is an offer of financial aid from a school in which you have applied. Listed on the award letter will be scholarships, grants, and loans you are eligible to receive. This information has been calculated by the financial aid office based on the information you provided on the FAFSA and other required financial aid documents.  

2. Determine the direct cost 

Often schools will publish the cost of attendance on the award letter rather than the direct cost. The cost of attendance is not the true cost to attend. Cost of attendance is used by the financial aid office to determine the amount of aid in which a student is eligible. Most often cost of attendance includes line items such as transportation, books, and miscellaneous fees. What you really need in order to estimate your bill is the direct cost. The direct cost consists of tuition and fees, housing cost (room), and meal plan (board). If you are not living on campus take out the housing and meal plan. 

3. Calculate scholarships and grants  

Scholarships and grants are funds in which you do not have to borrow. Essentially scholarships and grants are free money. So, to know what you really owe before having to get a Federal Work Study job, borrow money and/or cash in your savings, calculate scholarships and grants from each school. 

4. Subtract scholarships and grants from direct cost 

At this point results of the formula for each school should be:
Direct Cost – Scholarships and Grants = Estimated Bill
Once you determine the estimated bill for each school you have applied to, you will be able to compare price tags and determine how you would like to pay. 

With our Free College Cost Comparison Calculator, you will be able to calculate up to 5 schools on one sheet. Just add the information and the calculator will do the rest! 

There are many ways to pay your student bill and your award letter will indicate a few. Most of your award letters will have the same amount in student loans you are eligible to borrow. Some schools will add the Parent Plus loan as an award. This is a loan in which parents can borrow to help pay. The Federal Work Study amount varies by the job, pay rate, and how many hours worked but is a great means to pay your student bill. Also, along with your award letter may be a list of payment plan options.

Check out our post Paying for College...What are your Options.