Traditionally, the college decision process was far simpler than today. Students used to be able pick their favorite option among the different schools without worrying much about the price tag that comes along with tuition.

In today’s educational environment, college tuition costs have continued to rise. This leaves many families unable to afford a college that might have been within their budgets even just 10 years ago.

Many families have been forced into using more sophisticated methods of determining which schools are actually worth the prices associated with them.

Here are some of our suggestions for making the correct college choice for your future:

Compare financial-aid award letters

Each college has its own criteria for the financial aid application. This is what makes determining what financial aid students are receiving from each school they applied to so difficult.

In order to simplify this equation, just remember the primary sources of financial aid are scholarships, grants and student loans. Find where the school lists cost of attendance and subtract the total number of your scholarships and grants.

This should help you determine total cost you will have to pay through expected family contribution and student loans.

Use a loan calculator

Chances are, financial aid and expected family contribution will not cover the total cost of attendance. This is where student loans often come in.

Having to take out a loan is okay, as long as you are careful in your plans for repayment. Each loan comes with different payment plans, benefits, penalties and fees.

Make sure you are using a student loan payment calculator to understand your loan repayment prospects under each plan.

Investigate repayment options

With greater college costs have come more creative ways of paying loans back. Repayment methods like IBR (income based repayment) and PAYE (pay as you earn) allow students greater financial freedom as they pay their loans back.

Be proactive and find out if these are options for you.

By taking a more detailed approach into understanding financing college education, students are able to be more in control of their future finances and have greater freedom in their careers for years to come.