One of the biggest problems I hear about when families start the college planning process is…
Will our family qualify for financial aid?
Will we actually be able to afford college!?
Are private schools always more expensive than public schools?
How come my cousin’s kid got a “free-ride” but our neighbor’s son is paying full price?!
Do public and private colleges award financial aid in different ways?
College is expensive and most of us want to find ways to make it more affordable.
...Colleges give MUCH more free money to students than anyone else, including the federal government.
With few exceptions, expect the biggest scholarship to come from the college you attend - NOT a scholarship from a community organization or company.
The free money colleges give are called by many names, but "tuition discount" is what colleges call them as they plan for them.
Tuition discounts come in two main forms:
The type of aid you might get depends on whether you have been shown, (via the FAFSA form/formula and, in some cases the Profile form/formula) to actually have financial need.
You may think you have financial need but if the FAFSA doesn’t show it, no college in the country is going to say you have financial need.
The FAFSA is a form you complete that gathers info on your family's unique financial aid situation.
The form is tied to a formula that calculates a dollar amount.
The dollar amount calculated is called your Expected Family Contribution - or EFC.
That dollar amount, your EFC, represents what all colleges in the country believe you can pay, at a minimum, for one year of college.
NOT the maximum you will have to pay... the minimum you will have to pay.
In general, the lower your EFC number, the more financial need your family is eligible for (at both private and public schools).
A $0 EFC means that, per the formula, you are not expected to be able to pay anything for college (but does NOT guarantee that you will get any aid at all…. keep reading).
Once you know about what your EFC is you want to try to find schools that will give you the TYPE of aid you need; THEN you create the list of colleges you want to apply to.
IF YOU WANT TO MAKE COLLEGE MORE AFFORDABLE, YOU NEED TO BE STRATEGIC AS YOU CREATE THE LIST OF COLLEGES TO APPLY TO
What this looks like in the real world is that...
Your goal is to find the most generous schools that will consider your student an attractive candidate.
That's because colleges award more money to students who bring something they want, (grades/test scores/diversity, including geographic diversity /leadership...), and this varies from college to college .
Having a very low, or even a 0 EFC does NOT mean that a college, any college, will pay the full amount for you, or even give you any money toward tuition.
That, again, depends on the school’s policies for giving aid AND your student's academic profile in relation to THAT school.
Which makes building a smart college list extremely important to making college more affordable for you.
You can get an estimate of what you will be expected to pay for one year of college - your Expected Family Contribution (so you can target what TYPE of tuition discount to target) here . It's free and no personally identifying information is needed.
Before you head off to calculate your number, I want to leave you with two more thoughts:
If you want more help with this (and frankly, the college financial aid system is a confusing tangle of policies &practices and most everyone needs help!)...
...Consider my mini-course - which walks you through each step and helps you find the kind of tuition discount YOUR family needs.
Hope this is helpful!
Feeling Confused About How Best to Plan for College?
Download my free 7- page Timeline & Checklist & I'll walk you through when to plan for testing, submit financial aid forms, write essays & more!