One of the best analogies I’ve seen about paying for college comes from Kalman Chany’s Paying for College Without Going Broke:
“And not everyone pays the same price for a given college. In fact, going to college is a bit like traveling on an airplane. If you ask the person across the aisle what fare she paid, it may be completely different from your own. Some people may be paying the full fare for college while others pay far less, so you should never initially rule out a school based on ‘sticker price.’”
That’s also the reason every family with a student applying to college should also file a FAFSA to apply for financial aid. Imagine if there were one—and only one—website travelers could use to make sure they got the best possible price for their ticket. If you cared about how much the ticket cost, you’d use the website. You’d have nothing to lose and plenty of money to potentially save.
That website exists when it comes to paying for college. It’s the FAFSA site, and it’s here: https://fafsa.ed.gov.
Make sure to follow the directions from your chosen colleges about what to submit and when, but all of those schools will almost certainly require the FAFSA.