top of page

Ten Misconceptions About Paying for College

Updated: Apr 9, 2021

It happens every year.  Parents are shocked that their student’s college didn’t award their student enough, or even any, financial aid.  Many went into the process of applying for financial aid with the wrong ideas of how it works.  Here is the truth about some of the most common misconceptions:

  • FAFSA doesn’t award financial aid. The FAFSA application only determines if you are eligible for aid.  Yes, all students who submit the FAFSA qualify for an unsubsidized federal loan.  But the FAFSA is just the government’s way of calculating your eligibility.  It’s just the messenger.

  • Your EFC is not the amount you will pay. Every family has an Expected Family Contribution from FAFSA.  And some 300 private colleges use the CSS Profile from the College Board, which can calculate the EFC differently.  The EFC is a measure of your financial strength and is understood to be the amount you can afford to pay.  But…. most colleges don’t offer 100% of need or enough aid to cover the remaining costs above your EFC.  Most public universities can not afford to meet everyone’s demonstrated need.  Even if a school meets 100%, you will be expected to pay the full amount of the EFC.

  • A merit scholarship might not be enough. A $20,000 a year scholarship sounds generous, but if the private college’s sticker price is $60,000+, you need to reconsider.  Full scholarships exist, but they are rare and extremely competitive.

  • Loans might be the only “aid” your student is offered. Officially, federal loans are not considered financial aid, but depending on your EFC and the college’s available money, it may be all that is offered.