Filling out the FAFSA for college is one of those things that always ends up taking me a heck of a lot longer than I think it should. Personally, I am not really sure why the form is so long and that they request all of that detailed federal income tax information. I mean, the FAFSA goes to the Department of Education, which is part of the federal government - and the Internal Revenue Service is also part of the government. So, you would think that they could just share a database or two right? Maybe it will work like that someday, but it doesn't now so filling out that super long form must be done.
Even though I hate filling out the form, you know that I do it since I needed that financial aid to help pay for my classes. A semester is not cheap and my parents sure can't afford to pay for the cost all out right. If you are new to the college scene, then you should know that you HAVE to fill out the FAFSA each year if you want to be eligible for any type of financial aid - including student loans and grants.
After you submit your application to the Dept. of Education, they will process it and send you a report that contains your EFC. This also goes to your college or all the schools that you listed in the FAFSA if you have not selected a university yet.
EFC stands for Expected Family Contribution and that means that your EFC number is the amount that the Department of Education expects you (if you are an independent student) or your parents (if they claim you as a dependent on their taxes) to contribute to your college education costs.
Sometimes the EFC can be a ridiculous number for your family since they do not take into account any monthly expenses, such as debt payments, or even an income change when coming up with this number. Instead, it is based on your or your parent's reported income for the previous tax year. In my case, my dad is working less this year than the previous year, which means that I qualify for less grants (which is school money that does not have to repaid).
So, what is a good EFC number?
The lower your EFC, then the more free money you will qualify for at your school. Free money is things like Pell grants and scholarships. Some schools even have their own grants that they offer. Regardless of what your EFC number is, you will still qualify for student loans. Even the highest of EFCs qualifies for them.
Often, if you can be considered an independent student, you will have a lower (better) EFC since your income will likely be lower than your parents. And if you (or your parents) have zero income, then that is an automatic EFC of zero!