What does my FAFSA EFC number mean?
Expected Family Contribution or EFC is an important datapoint when applying for financial aid
There are lots of numbers to consider when thinking about paying for college. Probably the most important number is your Expected Family Contribution, or EFC. Keep on reading to learn more about what an EFC is, how colleges calculate it, and what this means for you as a student applying for financial aid.
What is the EFC?
Your EFC is the amount of money that a college estimates that your family can afford. This is calculated as part of your financial aid application process through the FAFSA, CSS Profile, or other financial aid forms.
You can think about your EFC as the baseline for your financial aid package. On top of what your family is expected to contribute, you may qualify for other types of financial aid through your college, your state government, and the local government, This financial aid can include need-based grants (such as the Pell Grant), student loans, and work study.
On top of this, you may also qualify for different outside scholarships or college-specific scholarships that can chip away at the costs that your family is responsible for. This is why a full ride scholarship is so valuable for students!
How do colleges calculate your Expected Family Contribution?
The EFC is calculated as a result of the data that you input into the FAFSA and other financial aid applications. This means that a wide variety of factors are taken into account when calculating your specific EFC. However, things like your family income, size of your household, having other siblings in college, and home equity will be taken into consideration when figuring out your EFC. Every college will be calculating EFC differently, so there is not a set formula and your Expected Family Contribution will vary from college to college.
In order to estimate your potential financial aid (which would be a good guess at your EFC), you can use the Net Price Calculator. While the Net Price Calculator is not an official financial aid calculator, it will provide a good estimate for your family at any college or university in the United States.
What does this mean for me as a student?
As a student, you will want to be aware of each college’s financial aid deadlines and requirements because they vary from college to college.
When you receive your official financial aid letters after you are accepted, the EFC will provide a valuable datapoint for comparing financial aid letters. With this said, it is also critical that you compare the contents of the financial aid award. Obviously, aid packages that have more need-based grants and merit scholarships are more favorable than financial aid packages that include more student loans.
Some colleges may also “gap” students which means that the difference between the cost of attendance and the Expected Family Contribution is not completely covered. This “gap” will have to be filled by the student in some way (here are some tips if your financial aid is not enough).
When in doubt, we always recommend that you get in touch with a financial aid officer at your college or university in order to ask specific questions about their aid package.
Frequently Asked Questions about EFC
What does it mean if EFC is 00000?
If your EFC has a string of “0s” it means that your Expected Family Contribution is $0. This means that given your family’s financial situation, the college in question does not expect your family to contribute any amount of money to your education. However, this does not mean that you will automatically be given a full ride. Only colleges that meet 100% of demonstrated financial need will cover your full cost of attendance. Other colleges may only cover a portion of your total costs.
Why is my EFC so high?
If your EFC is high, it generally means that your family’s income is high. Parental income is one of the biggest drivers of Expected Family Contribution and both parents’ income are taken into account, as well as the student’s income.
Why is my EFC so high with low income?
There could be several reasons why your EFC is high with a low income. If your family has a high number of investments or other assets, this could skew your EFC. It is also possible that you made a mistake on the application. We always recommend contacting your college financial aid office to ask questions about your specific family situation.
If my family’s EFC is so high should I even bother filling out the FAFSA?
Generally, we recommend that all students fill out the FAFSA–even if their EFC is high. First and foremost, the FAFSA allows you to access certain types of student loans from the federal government that have more favorable terms and interests rates. Additionally, some colleges have a policy that prevents students from applying for financial aid in subsequent years if they did not apply for financial aid as a first-year student. This means that if your family circumstances change–a parent loses a job or another sibling is in college–you will not be able to apply for financial aid.