So what is an EFC?
Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is an index number that colleges use to determine how much financial aid you’re eligible to receive. Your EFC is calculated according to a formula established by law and the information from your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The EFC factors in your family's taxed and untaxed income, assets, and benefits (such as unemployment or Social Security). Your family size and the number of family members who will attend college during the year are also considered.
Note: Your EFC isn't the amount of money your family will have to pay for college and it isn't the amount of federal student aid you'll receive.
How your EFC affects your financial aid package
Typically, the lower your EFC, the more financial aid you'll be eligible to receive. Your financial need can be found by subtracting your EFC from a school's cost of attendance (COA). The COA is typically tuition, books, supplies, transportation, room, and board.
COA - EFC = financial need
Based on this formula, your school's financial aid office will prepare a financial aid package and send you a financial aid award letter.
It's possible that the most expensive school on your list might not cost you the most. Don't let a school's sticker price be the only factor to sway your decision to apply. The fact is, most students receive some kind of financial aid including grants, scholarships, and/or work-study. It all depends on the total financial aid package awarded by each school. This information is available in your financial aid award letter.