If you’re like most families, when it comes to finding colleges that will fit, cost is going to be a significant factor. Looking at price tags of $30,000 to $60,000 or more a year for college is overwhelming if not downright scary.
What’s even scarier is that most people don’t even know how much of that price tag a college will expect them to pay.
Sure, they have an idea of what they can afford to pay, but when it comes down to how much money a family will have to contribute towards college costs, and their true financial aid eligibility, most people are in the dark.
Parents of freshmen, sophomores and juniors, I’m talking to you. Go figure out your EFC.
EFC stands for expected family contribution. It is the amount of money you will be expected to contribute towards one year of college costs. While it won’t paint the entire picture for you, it will serve as a starting point before you venture into how generous a school is with their aid. You won’t know your official EFC until after you’ve completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) but knowing a rough estimate of your EFC now will help you plan your college search more strategically.
For example, let’s say your EFC is $25,000. If you are looking at a college where the cost of attendance is $45,000 you can immediately see that you could be hoping to receive $20,000 in aid. Conversely, if the college’s cost of attendance is $20,000, you shouldn’t be expecting anything.
In the case of the former, $20,000 is a big difference to make up. The next step is to understand just how generous a school is and if they are going to help you out. By looking at how much of your need a college will meet, you can then do the math and determine how much you should be expecting, if anything. Staying with this example, a school who meets 50% of your need would have $10,000 in aid for you while a college who meets 75% of your need would have $15,000 in aid. How much of your need a college meets varies from college to college so look closely at the numbers so you know what to expect.
Outside of your ability to pay, some colleges also factor in how competitive you are as an applicant when they determine how much aid to award you. The stronger you are as an applicant, the more desirable you are to the college and, therefore, the more likely you are to receive aid.
So, do yourself a favor and obtain your estimated EFC now. Write it down, understand it and use it when you are researching schools and want to know what a school is going to cost you.
If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.