About four to six weeks after you submit the FAFSA (2-3 weeks for FAFSA on the Web), you will receive your Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR summarizes the information you provided on the FAFSA, and indicates the Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
The EFC is the amount of money your family will be expected to contribute to your education. The EFC is subtracted from the school’s Cost of Attendance (COA), also known as the “student budget”, to arrive at your financial need: Financial Need = COA – EFC. The student budget includes tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, travel, and personal and incidental expenses.
The lower your EFC, the more financial aid you will get. The school will try to meet this need through a financial aid “package” that combines aid from federal, state, school, and private sources with loans and student employment.
You may find your EFC figure to be painfully high. This often occurs because the need analysis formulas are heavily weighted toward current income. In addition, the formulas consider your income and assets without taking many common forms of consumer debt into account, such as credit card balances and auto loans. Finally, student income and assets can add significantly to the EFC figure.
Carefully review all of the information on the SAR to make sure it is correct. If there are any errors, call the school’s financial aid administrator to ask how you should make corrections. The item numbers printed on the SAR correspond with the question numbers on the FAFSA form. SAR comments and codes are outlined in the 2021–2022 SAR Comment Codes and Text Guide from the Department of Education.
The federal processor will send a copy of your SAR to each of the schools you listed on the FAFSA. If you need additional copies of the SAR, call the federal processor and ask for a duplicate SAR. Keep your copy of the SAR in the same folder that contains your copy of the FAFSA and the records you used to complete the FAFSA.
Finaid provides a few tips on legal ways you can reduce your EFC and thereby maximize your eligibility for financial aid.