How to Reduce Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

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When filling out your free application for federal student aid (FAFSA), your expected family contribution (EFC) is a dollar figure that allows the government to assess how much money you are able to contribute to your child's college education through your own funds. According to "U.S. News & World Report," to determine your EFC, the government uses a formula that takes into account factors such as your family income, home equity and investments. The higher the dollar amount of your EFC, the less financial aid is available to you for your quest to further your child's education. If you're looking for an increase in financial aid, the solution is to lower your EFC by following several strategies as you fill out and submit your FAFSA form. It's also important to note that many families miss the FAFSA deadline, which is March 1st, so plan accordingly.

Read the FAFSA form carefully and fill it out as accurately as possible. Small mistakes could cost your child financial aid in the future. Also ensure you understand which assets count toward your EFC and which are exempt.

Buy all necessary supplies before sending in the FAFSA form. Use your own money to purchase items such as a computer or school clothes. The goal here is to lower your current assets, qualifying you for more financial aid.

Attend college along with a sibling or another family member; doing so will raise the expected cost of education for your family and result in more financial aid.

Tell family members to reserve monetary gifts until your graduation date. The less money in your possession as you fill out your FAFSA, the better.

Send in your FAFSA before acquiring large sums of money. For example, if you or your parents plan on applying for a job in the near future, fill out your FAFSA beforehand. You should apply when your available funds are at their lowest, which is also the best time to use your savings to eliminate or reduce consumer debt, such as credit card debt and auto loans.

Acquire a Dependency Review Form from your school and file as an independent student, if applicable, which means that you are not living at home or receiving financial assistance from your parents or guardians. You may also qualify if you are a married individual, an Armed Forces veteran, orphan or have reached a specified age.


  • Always tell the truth regarding your financial situation, as a false report may disqualify you from obtaining any aid at all. In addition, if you receive financial aid according to falsified information, you may face a prison sentence or a $20,000 fine. Rather than risk these severe consequences, double-check all the information you include on your application.