Understanding A Net Price Estimate

Sample cost of attendance with budget categories

Cost of Attendance

When we are putting together a financial aid package, we start with a total cost of attendance. This number reflects the total cost for a student to attend Harvard for the academic year, and includes both billed and unbilled costs. Billed costs are costs which are charged by Harvard, such as tuition and fees, and room and board, and which will appear on your student bill. Unbilled costs are estimates of expenses that you will pay for on your own, including travel to and from campus, and books and personal expenses. We know that you will need to spend money on these items, but we don't actually provide them to you or send you a bill for them.

Billed expenses are also called direct costs. Unbilled expenses are also called indirect costs or out-of-pocket expenses.

The four categories that make up the standard cost of attendance are:

Tuition & Fees: This represents tuition as well as standard, required fees for the academic year (two semesters).

Room & Board: Room represents the standard cost of housing at Harvard. All students are charged the same room fee - we do not offer tiered housing options. Board is the fee for the meal program. There is only one meal program, which provides access to three meals a day. Students are able to eat in several dining halls and are welcome to eat as much as they'd like at each meal.

Travel: The travel allowance is an estimate of the cost of travel from home to Harvard and back again. It's included in your cost of attendance, but you pay for it out-of-pocket. The amount of the travel allowance is based on where you live.

Personal Expenses: Personal expenses are out-of-pocket expenses for things such as books, laundry, toiletries, and other things which you may buy for yourself over the course of the year.


Sample estimated family contribution with categories and amounts

Family Contribution

Please note: the Net Price Estimate and Scholarship amounts displayed here are generic examples and do not reflect the results of your own personal net price estimate. 

The estimated family contribution is broken down into three categories:

Parent Contribution: The parent contribution is based on our assessment of your parent(s)' ability to pay, based on the income and asset information that you entered on the Net Price Calculator.

Student Asset Contribution: The student asset contribution represents about 5% from your student assets.

Student Term-Time Work Expectation: The student term-time work expectation is a standard amount included in all financial aid packages. Most students will work roughly 10-12 hours per week for a minimum rate of $12 per hour.

Sample Net Price Calculator output listing estimated scholarship

Estimated Scholarship

The estimated scholarship is the total cost of attendance minus the total family contribution. We use a combination of federal, state, and Harvard funds to make up the total scholarship amount.

Sample Net Price Calculator output listing estimated scholarship

Frequently Asked Questions

Understanding Your Financial Aid Estimate FAQs