Starting in fall 2011, the federal government has mandated that colleges make available more sophisticated financial aid calculators to help determine actual costs of college. Today, only about 26 percent of students or their families use such calculators.
According to a recent poll of high school students, families aren't doing their homework, early enough in the process, to make rational decisions about financial aid. As a result, some students don't even try for certain colleges, believing they can't afford them. On the other hand, a majority of students (and their families) seem ready to "stretch" financially for a school that offers what they perceive as worth a higher cost.
Take a look at the poll; it offers a number of reminders of ways to approach this important element of the admissions process.