Finances are a strong component in any college choice decision, this is referred to as “Financial Fit”. While researching colleges, many students and families forget to take the financial aspect fully into consideration. Unfortunately, the student may end up being accepted to a school which the family cannot afford without financial hardship. This is a situation which can be totally avoided given the right set of tools. Discover Pathwaze would like to supply families with these resources in order to allow you to make informed decision.
The starting point to navigate “Financial Fit” is to go to the FAFSA4caster (http:////studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/estimate). The FAFSA4caster gives you a free early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid and establishes an initial Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is used in the student financial aid process in the United States to determine an applicant’s eligibility for need-based federal student aid, and in many cases, state and institutional (college) aid. The FAFSA4caster is considered the less detailed version of the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) but will provide a decently accurate view of the amount of Federal Aid your family qualification. FAFSA is now open for 2018-1019.
Once you have completed this document, if your EFC is under $11,000 your family would most likely qualify for federal aid in a large capacity. This financial aid support would be offered in the form of grants, work study and subsidized loans (interest free until your student graduates). However, if your EFC is between $11,000-$40,000/year your family will be in the category of qualifying for some federal aid in the form of grants, work study and subsidized loans, but would have to supplement the cost of college with merit and outside scholarships. Finally, if your EFC is over $40,000/year then your family would most likely not qualify for any federal aid and must rely solely on unsubsidized loans (interest starts accruing immediately), family contributions, and merit/outside scholarships.
Now that you have established your family’s EFC, you can start being more school specific. Most students have a list of schools which are considered “Best Fit”. These colleges are deemed “Best Fit” due to offering a location, major, activities and many preferences which match what the student is looking for in a college experience. Every school on this list should be vetted for “Financial Fit”.
In our next blog, Discover Pathwaze will explain how to vet specific schools for “Financial Fit”; as well as, how to locate merit aid and outside scholarships.