Your Guide to Affording Higher Ed: Week 6

How Schools Determine Financial Aid Eligibility

As we outlined in last week’s email, the first step in applying for financial aid is to file the FAFSA. To file the FAFSA, you need to provide various pieces of demographic and financial information. So where does that information go, and how is it used? 

When you file a FAFSA, the result is your Expected Family Contribution or EFC. Your FAFSA data and EFC information are sent to all of the schools you listed on your FAFSA. All schools have a "Cost of Attendance" (COA), which includes the cost of tuition, fees, room, board, books, supplies, travel, and miscellaneous expenses. Because these expenses differ from school to school, each school’s COA will be different.

Schools that have received your FAFSA data and EFC will calculate your financial need by subtracting your EFC from their COA.

Because each school’s COA is different, your financial need at each school will also be different. Schools will attempt to meet all of your financial need (and in a perfect world, every school would meet 100% of every student’s need!), but just like families, some schools have more money than others.

So how can you find schools that have the major(s) you’re interested in, are in locations that appeal to you, AND are affordable? We’ll tell you how in next week’s email!

Keep Calm and FAFSA On

If you're feeling a bit daunted by all of these acronyms — FAFSA, EFC, COA — no need to worry! We’re here to help (and we can translate acronym-speak)! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us any time. We’re available by phone at 800-228-3734 (TTY: 207-626-2717), or by email at

Your Guide to Affording Higher Ed: Email Series

Missed previous emails? Don't worry—you can find them here:

Week 1: The Piecemeal Approach

Week 2: Summer Jobs and Savings

Week 3: Scholarships

Week 4: The Financial Aid Process

Week 5: Applying for Financial Aid

FAME's College Access and Financial Education Team:


Mila TappanCollege Access and Outreach Manager

Jessica WhittierCollege Access Counselor 

Nikki VachonCollege Access Counselor

Maria MacDougalCollege Access Counselor

Floreka MalualCollege Planning Advisor

Mary DyerFinancial Education Programs Manager

Sarah Newcomb, Financial Education Programs Specialist

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