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Articles / Applying to College / Help ... Our EFC is Way Too High!

April 10, 2012

Help ... Our EFC is Way Too High!

Question: I receive disability payments but the online EFC calculator tells me that our family 's Expected Contribution is $33,000. This is impossible for us as I have no extra money after paying my bills and no savings. Can speaking to the financial aid office help? My daughter has all A's and good sat scores along with great extracurriculars.

An EFC of $33,000 sounds awfully high for a parent on disability unless there is a second parent with a greater income or your daughter has her own income or assets. I wonder if you made a mistake when you tried the calculator.


Did you know that all colleges are now required to put a "Net Price Calculator" on their Web sites? If you haven't done so already, try these individualized calculators for a couple of the colleges that are on your daughter's current list.

For instance, here's a calculator for Smith College, where I used to work and which offers excellent financial aid for strong students who are willing to consider a single-sex school: https://npc.collegeboard.org/student/app/smith

If the figure continues to come out to $33K (or to ANY number that strikes you as absurd), then your daughter's best bet is to apply to colleges where she will be a likely contender for a big merit scholarship. Although some colleges (especially the Ivies and a handful of other highly competitive places like Amherst and Williams) provide only need-based aid, the majority of schools use merit money to entice their most sought-after applicants to enroll.

To find colleges that meet her preferences and profile and where she is a likely candidate for merit aid, your daughter can use College Confidential's SuperMatch: http://www.collegeconfidential.com/college_search/ As she completes the SuperMatch questionnaire, she should be on the lookout for the "My Scores" heading and should be sure to check the box under this heading that says, " I'm interested in schools where I would be well above average, to increase my financial aid opportunities." Once she gets her results list, she can take a closer look to see if any of the suggested schools should be added to her list and she can visit their Web sites to get a sense of how much merit money she may be in the running to receive.

As you've suggested, you can also talk to financial aid officers (or write a letter) that explains why a high EFC is well out of reach. But before you do, check it again because I suspect that you made a mistake when you completed the online form.

(posted 4/10/2012)

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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