Just sit down and watch this video. You might just feel a whole lot more confident and ready to tackle this infamous government financial aid form. After all it’s the most effective way to get money for college! It’s hard to believe, but the FAFSA is the gateway form to just about all the college financial aid there is. The Federal Government takes the information you enter in the FAFSA form and computes your Expected Family Contribution or EFC. Almost all colleges take their cue from the EFC when it comes to handing out grants, scholarships, work-study funds and federal student loans. Compared to the much more invasive CSS Profile form used by about 250 elite private schools, the FAFSA is a comparative snap. But stay vigilant and do your homework. This is your chance to get your fair share of the Federal student aid pie.
EFC means Expected Family Contribution. It’s a calculation done by the Federal Government and/or certain upper tier colleges based on your family’s finances. This calculation will result in an immutable number around which your financial aid package (if any) will be designed. If your child is a senior when you discover this process, it’s pretty much too late to make any changes in your finances. If you are starting earlier to address this issue, then there are a few changes you can make in your finances that will change how they will be viewed for the EFC calculations. Mostly this is something to take up with your financial advisor (if you can even find one that understands the issues at hand). Check out this video I made about the College Board’s EFC Calculator. It can help you get a rough idea of what factors are considered in defining your EFC. Additionally, each college has a net price calculator on its website (usually inconspicuous) through which you can feed your financial information to learn whether you can afford the school or not. It’s pretty much a crap shoot as to the value of this information. You will be left with more questions than answers. So, if you have a financial aid question concerning the college to which your child will be applying, just call up the financial aid department! They are all regular people just like us! They will mostly try to answer your questions. Even if you feel dumb, just keep asking. The worst they can do is mock you behind your back. Oh well… So be a pest, but be a very nice pest, until you get the answers you want!