How to Understand the EFC

by Erin Schreiner ; Updated July 27, 2017

For soon-to-be college students, their EFC (Expected Family Contribution) is an important figure as it determines how much they will be eligible to receive in financial aid. Navigating the rocky river of college financial aid often proves challenging. To increase the likelihood that you make wise financial choices and set yourself up for college funding success, educate yourself on the array of complex numerical terms that dictate your choices, including your EFC.

Step 1

Explore the factors that go into determining your EFC. An array of factors go into determining a student's Expected Family Contribution. These factors include: family size, family savings, total family income and number of individuals within the family in college. Your EFC is calculated using this information, which you provide on your Free Application for Federal Students Aid.

Step 2

Obtain your EFC from your FAFSA paperwork. After completing your FAFSA, you can discover what your calculated EFC is. The lower your EFC, the most financial aid you will qualify for. The higher you EFC, the more money your family is expected to provide to cover your educational costs.

Step 3

Discover which sources of aid your EFC may effect your eligibility for. While the EFC is primarily intended to impact your access to federal loans, this number can have an affect on other financial aid sources as well. The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Association reports a student's EFC impacts his access to Pell Grants, Stafford loans, work-study programs, state grant programs and private need-based scholarships or grants.

Step 4

Determine the difference between the federally calculated EFC and the institutional EFC. The EFC calculated by the federal government is not the only EFC figure about which you need to be concerned. Many colleges calculate their own EFC figure to make decisions regarding aid offered by the college. Institutions of higher education commonly take additional factors, such as medical costs, specifics of the family's financial situation and recent unemployment, into account as well.

Step 5

Consider what your EFC means for your financial aid eligibility. To determine how much financial aid a student will be offered, most schools use a simple formula: Cost of attending – EFC = Financial need. To estimate your likely financial aid availability, complete this calculation using tuition figures for the school that you plan to attend.

About the Author

Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.