Paying For College - Head Matters

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7. After the FAFSA


After you’ve filled out your FAFSA… what’s next?

a. The SAR and EFC


When you’re preparing to fill out your FAFSA, you may hear the terms Student Aid Report (SAR) and Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Basically, your SAR is a report of the results of the calculation that the federal government runs based on the information you provide on your FAFSA. Your EFC is the result being reported on the SAR. Your SAR will be sent to you and to any school that you designated on the FAFSA. You may also send your SAR to any schools that you didn’t note on the FAFSA but are considering attending by going to www.fafsa.ed.gov/FOTWWebApp/addschool.jsp. You will need to use your PIN.

Many families ask, “Does Expected Family Contribution (EFC) mean that the government expects me to be able to pay that amount out of pocket?” The answer is no. While some families are able to pay their EFC, many more use student loans or other borrowed income to help fill the gap. Although the government does not expect you to pay the EFC out of pocket, that number does represent the amount that they believe you should be responsible for paying, based on the information about your financial situation that you provided on the FAFSA.


One important aspect of student financial aid is that, after you have paid the college for tuition, fees, and dormitory expenses (if you live on campus) with financial aid, any amount that may be left is given to you to use over the rest of the term.  This refund is the way you might buy books, pay for transportation, or support yourself as you go to school.  Talk to your financial aid office to see if you will receive a refund to be used for living expenses while you are in school.  We've developed a budget planning tool to assist you in making that refund last for an entire school term.

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Paying For College

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