college countdown: your college success starts here

Cost of College

You Can Afford College

Information adapted from the Financial Fit Program.

Our Paying for College expert Frank Palmasani recommends figuring out how much you can afford to spend on college and how you will pay for college early in the search process. He recommends first finding your affordability threshold, then finding the categories of colleges that match your affordability threshold, before you start choosing the colleges to which you will apply. It's important to understand this early in the process, so you don't end up applying only to colleges you can't afford to attend.

university quad

You need to have an honest conversation with your parents about how your college education will be paid for:

  • Are your parents willing and able to pay for all costs—tuition, fees, room and board, etc.?
  • How much can your parents contribute?
  • Do you plan to take out student loans and hope your parents can help with any funds you need beyond that?
  • Will you need to pay for everything on your own?


Figuring out how you will pay for college and understanding the financial aid process is complicated, but Palmasani can help. He's divided the process into two phases—the planning phase and the execution phase—and he can help you estimate how much a college will really cost you. (Hint: It's rarely the number a college lists as the official cost on its website.) He can also help you find schools you can afford.

In the planning phase, you need to assess your affordability, find out the actual cost of colleges, and find schools that fit you financially. In the execution phase, you file the FAFSA, CSS Profile, and other financial aid documents, receive and evaluate your award letters, send in appeals if necessary, and decide which college you will attend.

Ready to learn more about your affordability threshold?