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How Do You Know How Much You Will Pay for Your College?

college board efc expected family contribution fafsa financial aid financial aid forms need based aid paying for college profile form

Paying for college is often compared to paying for airline tickets. No two people pay the same price. What will your costs be at college? How much you pay for college depends on so many factors.  Knowing what those factors are, and how college will look at your family’s financial situation, will help you know what the price of your “college” ticket will be. Knowing how it will differ from one college to another will help you compare one college to another.
How do I know if I am eligible for financial aid?

What do colleges look at to determine how much you pay for college? The FAFSA or Profile forms are used to determine how much your family can contribute to your college education. The forms include questions to find out: 

  • How much income your parents make
  • How much income you make (if any)- even babysitting counts
  • How much savings or investments your parents have
  • How much savings you have in your name

What is an “Expected Family Contribution”?

The answers from the FAFSA are plugged into a formula.  Out comes an “Expected Family Contribution”.  This is the number used to determine how much financial assistance (if any) your family is eligible for.

What else is considered?

Besides income and assets, these factors are also considered: 

  • Age of your parents. The older they are, the more savings they need set aside to retire.
  • Size of your family.  Large families need more money to live on than small families.
  • The number of children in college at one time.  It can save you money to have more than one child in college at one time.  Unfortunately, parents don’t count in the mix anymore.

When do I file my financial aid forms?

Timing is everything when it comes to financial aid. Watch for details about when colleges require the FAFSA or the Profile form to be filed.  Plan to file the FAFSA as early as possible. (The FAFSA opened on Oct 1) This is the form needed to qualify for financial grants, workstudy or student loans from the federal government.  The College Board Profile may also be required by the college (or a scholarship program).  This is the form colleges use to help know who needs money from the college itself. It is their way of distributing their own funds to the students with the most need.  Deadlines for the Profile vary college by college. Check GuidedPath and check college websites for deadlines.