There are certain characteristics you want the school you attend to have: a top–notch program, a respected reputation, even a disereable location. And then there's the cost. We all want low cost.

Private and public schools' tuitions are increasing dramatically. The growing fear among applicants is that they will be accepted to their first–choice school but not have the means to pay for it. Some students don't consider schools whose price tags are high. That's a mistake!

When you are deciding which school to attend, consider the cost. When you are deciding to which schools you will apply, cost should take a backseat (for now).

When you are creating your school list, consider many things, but at this point, cost should not be a take–it–or–leave–it factor. What you are expected to contribute could be far less than the cost of attendance. Sometimes, your out-of-pocket costs may be less at a school with a higher sticker price than a school with lower sticker price. How?

Financial Aid Enters the Picture

With a financial aid award, your ultimate, out–of–pocket costs may dramatically decrease from the original sticker price. Some schools offer more generous award packages than others. Some award packages will be less loan–heavy (forcing you to borrow more) than others. And some will cover more or all of your need than others.

The bottom line is that you won't know what your financial obligation will be until after you:

  1. are accepted
  2. apply for financial aid
  3. and receive your award package.

Only then will you have all the information (financial too) to decide which school is the best choice to attend.

Making Your School List With $ in Mind

We wish we could say, "You can completely ignore the cost when deciding where to apply." We can't. There is no way to be certain that you will receive a generous, comprehensive award package that will leave you with plenty of money for Friday night socials.

Just as you apply to expensive schools with the hope of a handsome award package, you should also apply to reasonably priced schools (or financial safety schools) in the event that your award package falls short of your expectations. The best financial safety schools are ones that you would happily attend if your other choices don't pan out.