If you’ve managed to survive the perplexity and stress of completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form (FAFSA), then congratulations are in order. It’s a complex journey and we can help you with all of the confusion. Once you’ve submitted your FAFSA you’ll receive a student aid report (SAR). The SAR gives you your expected family contribution number (EFC). This is the dollar amount the government believes you can afford to spend on your child’s education for one year. The number is in five digits. For example, if your EFC says 15540, this reads fifteen thousand, five hundred forty dollars. If your EFC number is 03333; this is three thousand, three hundred thirty-three dollars.
People are often confused by the EFC, they think it’s the amount of student aid they will get; in fact, it’s the dollar amount that Uncle Sam thinks you can afford to spend on college. Understanding your EFC can help you establish a financial plan. The lower your EFC, the more financial aid you should be eligible for. Carefully review your SAR for mistakes. You will be able to correct any mistakes on the Information Review Form, which is on the back side of a paper version and is the last page of a computerized SAR report. If you need to make corrections to your information, click “Make FAFSA Corrections on the ‘My FAFSA’ page. You must use your Federal Student Aid PIN to access your record online. If you need additional help with your SAR, contact your school’s financial aid office or the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243). If your mailing address or e-mail address changes, you can make the corrections online or call 1-800-4-FED-AID and ask a customer service representative to make the change for you.
All colleges that you listed on your FAFSA will get a copy of your SAR. The financial aid offices at the indicated schools will determine your financial need, according to their own financial aid policies. That being said, your EFC may differ from school to school and from year to year.
There are catch phrases that you have to be familiar with. Another name for the COA or cost of attendance is the “all in cost”, what college is going to cost you. Your “need” is the difference between the cost of college and your EFC:
Cost of Attendance or Your “All in Cost”
– Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
= Financial Need
This “getting my kid into college” process is complicated stuff, we understand that. Check our website www.collegeplanningservices.org where we offer helpful tips. It’s always a good idea to hire a professional college planner; it’s his/her job to help you make sense of these annoying applications and better yet, help you fill them out correctly. The College Board reports that 90% of all FAFSAs are filled out with errors or inconsistencies. A good college planner will review your finances, tell you which colleges offer the most free scholarship money and inform you about the numerous ways to pay your tuition bill.