Prospective college students need to carefully compare college costs, including room and board, books, travel expenses, and spending money. The first tuition bill that arrives shortly after making a deposit can be a rude awakening for many. Look carefully at your college list to make sure it includes "financial safeties". Although the prospect of researching colleges can be exciting, do not get swept away by the process and disregard college costs as part of the picture. It is important to have a candid discussion within the family early in the process about this. Don't forget to look for "no loan" colleges — ones who have made a commitment to reduce student loan debt. In addition, consider premier public universities in and out of state. You can also compare merit aid rates at colleges and see if you qualify for scholarship money.
Below is a useful government site that helps you compare college statistics such as merit aid percentage and estimated cost of attendance based on income: http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/