Financial Aid- Where to Start?

Updated: Sep 11


desk with calculator and documents

How can you tell if you can get financial aid? - There are a lot of variables - age, income, assets, marital status, how many siblings are in college. The first place to start is to determine your EFC - expected family contribution. It is the amount that the school to which you are applying or the government expects you to pay for college. The EFC is generated in two main areas:

  • FAFSA - The information submitted through the FAFSA - free application for student aid - is used by 20 million applicants across the country. Used by the government, colleges, and universities to come up with the applicant's financial aid package.

  • CSS Profile - The institutional profile is the second type of calculation. In this profile, there is proprietary information used by approximately 200 schools. These schools are typically higher-profile schools that want to add more control and flavor to their financial aid packages. The CSS profile is a little more complicated because there is not as much information as to what is inside it.

People can actually use certain online calculators to understand what the FAFSA/CSS Profile is going to spit out before they apply, so they have better foresight and understand the direction to go. The College Board EFC Calculator is a pretty good one. When you use the EFC calculator and plug information in, let's say the EFC pumps out a $30,000 EFC. People are surprised by this number and it is typically higher than they were expecting. The difference between a school's cost of attendance and their EFC is considered need. True aid is government and school grants and is separate from the loan package offered. Below are some additional answers to the questions many parents have. Expand your options - Much of the news is dominated by high-profile colleges that boast how many students they turn away. This is not the reality of the 1,000 quality colleges out there. It is more of a buyer's market than you think. Private, moderately selective universities have to hustle more. Understand your financial position before creating the school list. Throw a wider net because the negative side is a student coming out of college with a loan payment equivalent to a mortgage, or a parent unable to retire.


If you have questions about your student's college planning process, schedule a no-obligation chat with us.


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