Many colleges have their own net price calculators (NPC) so that you can estimate you will actually pay for college. Your cost of attending college is better known as your net price. The net price calculation will estimate your (1) federal aid, (2) state aid, (3) institutional aid, (4) student loans, sometimes (5) parent PLUS loans, and sometimes (6) merit aid. This is a super helpful tool for you to get a sense of the financial fit of the college as it tries to estimate what the college will "award" upon the receipt of the financial aid forms when the student files them.
To get a reasonably correct estimate, you need to provide as accurate information as possible. NPC follow the old adage in computer programming "garbage in, garbage out"!
O's tips to using the NPC to get a "reasonably correct estimate":
Most state universities use FAFSA for determination of all aid. Many private universities use FAFSA and CSS Profile for determination of federal/state and institutional aid respectively. The NPC will ask a set of questions according to the kind of aid form they use.
FAFSA and CSS Profile ask for prior-prior year income and assets. Have your 1040 with you.
You will be asked for parent and student income and assets. Income is more than just salary. Read what is considered income and assets on FAFSA and CSS Profile before you do the NPC. These are the most important questions on NPC.
You will also be asked about the amount of tax paid. 1040 comes handy.
Some colleges will ask about your primary home equity. Check Zillow or Redfin for your current valuation.
Some NPC will give an estimate of merit aid. Have GPA and SAT/ACT scores handy. Some colleges will ask for unweighted and others both weighted and unweighted.
Just start typing its name, select from the drop down menu and click 'Visit NPC Page'. The link to the college's NPC will open in a new tab.