Knowing the numbers - Net Price Calculators
What are net price calculators? Each school has its own variables and not every school meets 100% of a family's demonstrated financial need. To have a better idea, and by law, each school has to offer a net price calculator. That calculator is designed by and will have the considerations for each school. Some net price calculators will request information on the student's academic profile to also provide an expectation of merit scholarships in addition to need grants.
It benefits the school to offer the best net price calculator, so the applicant has the best idea of what they will pay. If a school's net price calculator takes you less than a minute to complete, it is not very accurate. There is merit-based aid, based on the student's academic profile, and there is need-based aid. Every school looks at need grants and merit scholarships differently. Suppose a student wants to be in a popular urban environment or a fun city by the water, typically those schools will offer less in the form of merit scholarships. Schools in the middle or mid-west regions of the country may have to work a little harder to attract students and provide better financial aid packages. Be sure to expand your list to balance.
What you want to do is start with your EFC, consider the schools you are looking at, throw a wider net and avoid the trophy school trap. If you have a low EFC, you want to look at schools with a good track record for offering generous need packages. If you have a high EFC, you want to look at schools that have a good track record of offering generous merit packages. Every school is different.