If you’re trying to figure out just how
you’re going to pay for a college education, you’re
not the only one. With the rising cost of attending college, more
than 80 percent of college students seek financial aid to make
There are a variety of sources out there to choose from, but you’ve
got to be eligible and get approved to get the money. The Department
of Education will provide more than $67 billion this year, about
70 percent of all student aid, to help millions of students and
families pay for higher education. But to receive this money,
you must determine your financial need.
The determination process may seem overwhelming
and tedious. However, if you’re well informed, you will
be more likely to be successful.
First you must fill out and submit a FAFSA (Free Application for
Federal Student Aid). Those nice people in your college financial
aid office will use the information you provide on this form to
determine your financial need.
After receiving the FAFSA information from the Department of Education,
the financial aid office at your prospective college determines
your expected family contribution from how much the school costs
to arrive at your financial need using the following formula:
Cost of attendance-Expected family contribution= Your financial
Cost of attendance
Colleges generally publish their cost of attendance
(COA) information in their admission materials and/or on their
Web sites. A college’s COA is made up of the following:
tuition and fees at the college for a year
average housing and dining costs
books and supplies
travel to and from school
expected family contribution
The expected family contribution (EFC) is the amount that you
and/or your family are expected to contribute to your education.
This figure is calculated with the information you provide on
your FAFSA, as well as your family’s most recent income
Considerations are made for income, family size,
and the number of children who are full-time undergraduate students.
If there’s a discrepancy between after using
the formula and if there is an amount left over, you are considered
to have financial need. If you are determined eligible, you will
receive an award letter detailing your financial aid. It will
list the types of aid offered to you for the academic year for
which you applied. This is your financial aid award package.
The determination process may sound difficult,
but there is help out there. There are financial aid experts who
can help you make sense out of the process and enable you to get
all the financial aid assistance that you are eligible for. But
asking for financial aid help doesn’t mean your job is done.
Gary Musler, a financial-aid expert and founder
of The College Service Center, Inc., says, “It’s not
enough to fill out the forms and cross your fingers.” Ultimately,
it’s up to you to follow through in your quest for financial
This article is provided by The
Next Step Magazine (nextSTEPmag.com), a publication that helps
students prepare for life after high school.