Juniors, part of researching colleges is understanding the cost of a college education. It's not too soon to start investigating what your family may be asked to pay for college. To do that, start with the net price calculators (also called financial aid calculators) that every college and university are required to have on their website. (Calculators can also be found through the College Board at collegeboard.org and on the Federal Student Aid website at fafsa4caster.ed.gov.)
This online tool will give you a preliminary understanding of the amount you may be expected to pay out of pocket, as well as aid you may be eligible to receive from the federal government and the colleges themselves. Over the coming weeks, sit down with your parents and take a look at the net price calculators on the websites of some of the colleges in which you're interested.
In 2012-13, $238.5 billion in financial aid was distributed to undergraduate and graduate students in the form of grants, Federal Work-Study, federal loans, and federal tax credits and deductions, according to the College Board's Trends in Student Aid. There is money out there to help you finance a college education. But you have to apply for it.