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Articles / Applying to College / Why Do Merit Aid Applications Ask About EFC?

Why Do Merit Aid Applications Ask About EFC?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | May 30, 2012

Question: On a MERIT based scholarship, why do they ask for the EFC? My husband and I have been very frugal and have enough money saved for a college education for our 2 children. However we want our kids to apply for MERIT based scholarships, (they meet the criteria, hard working, extra activities, great grades and test scores, leadership activities etc).

Should our kids even bother completing a merit based application since we have the ability to pay?


Some colleges want to know if you are eligible for federal financial aid (and, if so, how much) before they give you their own money. They want to be sure that you’ve tapped all other resources before they shell out. So, although it may sound counterintuitive, if you don't qualify for federal aid, these schools may be eager to dig into their coffers to lure a strong student who might have to pay full freight elsewhere.

While some colleges do have merit awards that are earmarked for students with need, others have grants that are specifically for those with little or no need. So your kids are not wasting their time by seeking merit aid from places that are inquiring about your EFC, even if it’s high.

(posted 5/30/2012)

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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