You’ve started the college process and you have a lot of questions. “Do we even qualify for financial aid?” This is one of the biggest question most families face. Finances are a strong component of any college choice decision. This part of the college process requires families to determine the Financial Fit of each institution.
While researching colleges, many students and families forget to take the full financial aspect of college into consideration. Unfortunately, the student may end up being accepted to a school that the family cannot afford without financial hardship. This is a situation that can be totally avoided given the right set of tools. Discover Pathwaze can supply families with the proper resources to help them make informed financial decisions.
First things first…
The starting point to navigate “Financial Fit” is to go to the FAFSA4caster. The FAFSA4caster gives a free early estimate of 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 a family could qualify for.
Upon completion of the FAFSA4caster, if the EFC is under $11,000, a 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 a student graduates). However, if the EFC is between $11,000-$40,000/year, a 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 the EFC is over $40,000/year, then a 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.
It’s much easier to select schools once an EFC has been determined. Most students have a list of schools that are considered “Best Fit”. These colleges are deemed “Best Fit” due to offering a location, major, activities and many preferences that match what the student is looking for in a college experience. Every school on this list should be vetted for “Financial Fit”.