Financial Aid: How to Find Out If You Qualify

Today I want to share one of the many financial aid questions that I tackle in my new eBook, Shrinking the Cost of College: 152 Ways to Cut the Cost of a Bachelor’s Degree.

This question happens to be one that I believe most families worry about:

How do you know if you will qualify for financial aid?

Here are some of the factors that go into determining if a family will receive financial aid:

  • Number of people in the household.
  • Number of students in college.
  • Price of the college.
  • Parents’ income.
  • Marital status of parents: are the parents divorced or remarried?
  • Income taxes paid.
  • Non-retirement investments.
  • Business equity.

Okay, you’re probably thinking, this list doesn’t tell you whether you’ve got a chance at financial aid.

You’re right, but a calculator that I discuss in my eBook does. Your best bet for determining your aid chances is to head to the CollegeBoard.com and use its EFC Calculator.

Use the calculator and you’ll get your preliminary Expected Family Contribution or EFC number. This number represents, at a minimum, what a college would expect your family to pay for a year of schooling.

As I mention in the eBook, it’s essential that you obtain this preliminary EFC number before you start looking for colleges. Families should definitely not wait until their children are seniors to use the calculator.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of Shrinking the Cost of College: 152 Ways to Shrink the Cost of a Bachelor’s Degree. She also writes about college for CBSMoneyWatch. Follow her on Twitter.

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