Will You Pick Which Colleges to Visit Based on Cost?

By Abigail Seldin, co-founder of CollegeAbacus.com

Fotolia_19820384_XSA junior in high school, Sarah* has always been good at math and science. Her mom has offered to take her on a college visit trip to see engineering schools, but doesn’t want Sarah to get her heart set on a school that they can’t afford. Sarah’s top choices are Carnegie Mellon, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.

Sarah’s mom thinks that visiting Carnegie Mellon is a waste of time, as the sticker price for Carnegie Mellon exceeds their post-tax income of $50,000. Instead, she’s encouraging Sarah to visit Virginia Tech (where she will get in-state tuition) and Georgia Tech.

To help convince her mom to drive her to Carnegie Mellon for a visit, Sarah used College Abacus to generate a free estimate of how much financial aid she could expect from her dream school. Sarah’s guidance counselor told her that College Abacus is like a Kayak.com for financial aid, and uses calculators built by the colleges to create its estimates. Sarah and her counselor thought that the free online tool might help her decide which schools to visit during her junior year.

To her surprise, Sarah learned that Carnegie Mellon would cost only $4000 more per year than in-state tuition at Virginia Tech.


After Sarah’s mom saw the College Abacus results, she and Sarah agreed to add Carnegie Mellon to their itinerary, and to leave Georgia Tech off their list. You can scroll down to see Sarah’s detailed results, or visit CollegeAbacus.com to find out which schools will offer you financial aid before you visit.