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The Federal Student Aid Estimator and net price calculators can help you gauge the amount of financial aid you could receive. Using these tools to estimate your potential financial aid can help you prepare for your financial aid award letter and build a plan if you need more financial support.
Federal Student Aid Estimator
This tool from the Department of Education helps you estimate what federal financial aid you’ll qualify for, such as Pell Grants, work-study and direct loans. You can use the Federal Student Aid Estimator before you submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA.
» MORE: Your guide to financial aid
You must answer questions related to your financial aid eligibility to get a result. To complete, you’ll need to reference financial documents, like federal tax information and bank statements.
Based on your answers, you’ll receive an estimated federal Pell Grant amount, federal work-study amount and maximum federal direct loan eligibility. The Federal Aid Estimator now includes a Student Aid Index or SAI estimate. Colleges and universities use the SAI to determine how much federal aid you could be eligible for at their institution.
However, the Federal Student Aid Estimator doesn't offer a full picture of the aid you could receive from the state or the colleges you apply to.
Also, the generosity of certain federal aid programs, such as work-study, differs from school to school based on available funding. That means the Federal Student Aid Estimator mainly gives you an early look primarily at your eligibility for Pell Grants.
Net price calculators
The “sticker price” you’ll find on a school’s website doesn’t accurately reflect what you’ll end up paying. A more useful measure is the net price or the amount you must pay after factoring in scholarships and grants.
A net price calculator will show you how much grant aid you’re likely to receive to attend a particular school. That amount could include federal Pell Grants as well as state and school grant funding.
But net price calculators don’t always show you exactly how much of each you’ll receive. That’s why it’s helpful to get an estimate of your potential Pell Grant from the Federal Student Aid Estimator.
Most colleges include net price calculators on their websites, but the tools aren’t always easy to find. Search for a calculator using the Department of Education’s Net Price Calculator Center.
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Next steps to determine how much financial aid you can get
Once you have an idea of how much financial aid you can expect, you can better determine your debt load to pay for college.
A good rule of thumb is to borrow no more than 10% of your projected after-tax monthly income in your first year out of school. For example, if you expect to make $40,000 in your first year out of college, borrow less than $21,000 to keep your payment affordable. Use a student loan affordability calculator to figure out how much to borrow.
» MORE: How to get a student loan
You can also gain insight into graduates’ typical total debt and monthly loan payments at specific schools using the Department of Education’s College Scorecard.
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