Using Your EFC to Choose Colleges

Using Your EFC to Help Select Colleges

Just in case you haven’t heard us tell you before, we are going to say it again: calculate your EFC (Expected Family Contribution) as soon as possible. There are several reasons for this. First, it is easier to discuss with students the possibility that you may not be able to afford a college earlier rather than later. This way your daughter can know that even if she gets in to her dream school, there is a chance that you won’t be able to afford it. Second, if there is anything that you can do to lower your EFC, the earlier you start the more likely you will be able to do that. Finally, and this brings us to the topic of our article, if you know your EFC, you can use it to help you in the college search.

Once you know your EFC and what you can actually pay, you will have an idea of which schools you should investigate and which you should avoid. If your EFC is low, then you should focus on schools that do a good job of meeting financial need. Remember, theoretically, your EFC is all you will be paying at any school, regardless of the price. Keep in mind that often private schools give out more financial aid than state schools, especially if you are attending a state school out of state, so even though the “sticker price” of the school may be much higher, what you will actually pay out of pocket will be lower. The other fact that is important to understand is that not all college’s financial aid programs are equal. Thus, you need to look in to the quality of a college’s financial aid program. One way to do this is by using the College Board’s College QuickFinder. Visit the College Board Website ( and enter in the name of the school you would like to investigate in the QuickFinder. When the college appears, go to the Costs and Financial Aid page. Once on that page, you will want to scroll down to the Financial Aid statistics. Under financial aid statistics the show the average percentage of need met. A marker of a quality financial aid program is meeting over 80% of need. A warning flag should go up if the college does not report the average percentage of need met. This means they aren’t giving out a lot of money. Schools are usually proud of the amount of scholarships that they give. Remember that average means some students will get more than the average and some will get less. However, this will give you an idea of how much money you can expect to receive and what you should expect to pay. If you have a low EFC, it is very important that you include a number of schools that have quality financial aid programs.

What happens if you determine that your EFC is significantly higher than what you can afford to pay? Before, your only choices were to pray and buy lottery tickets. If you will not qualify for need based aid, then it is important for you to locate schools that will offer you merit-based money. Our search allows you to locate colleges that will offer you scholarship money based on your SAT and GPA. You can also select the states where you would like to attend school. The report will then allow you to determine how much money you may be eligible for, applications deadlines, and any special requirements that are necessary in order to be considered for those scholarships. All the information that you will need to unlock the college treasure chests. You will then want to include some financial safety schools on your list. Schools where you have a good idea that you will receive scholarship money or that are low cost (such as state schools).