In case you don’t know what your EFC is, it is the amount of money the federal government believes your family should be able to contribute to your college education (Estimated Family Contribution). You can get your EFC by completing the FAFSA application, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Don’t worry that you are not a senior in high school. You can get an estimate of your EFC at any time. That can go a long way in helping you determine what colleges will best fit both your academic and your financial needs.
Just as students are encouraged to apply to an academic “reach” school, it can be a smart move to apply to a financial reach school. Campuses sometime make it clear that they are looking for specific kinds of applicants. If you fall into a category of student they are searching for, it could mean a substantial financial incentive to entice you to attend.
Don’t get too caught up with any one part of the college planning process. Remember that grades and usually, test scores will be the first hurdle in determining how attractive you are to a college. Also, things like your success in extracurricular activities, volunteering and community service and how well you communicate.
As long as you take care of the things you control and do your homework about opportunities in the college landscape, college is within reach for just about anyone who wants to go. Even for students who are not concerned about the price tag of earning a four-year degree, there is still work to be done. Unless the family has several buildings on camps that bear their name, no one just waltzes onto a college campus and begins taking classes.
Your initial college list should have a handful of qualifying parameters. The list should be trimmed by adding one condition at a time until you get the list down to manageable size. If needed throw out all the schools that you are familiar with and have no desire to attend. Stop the culling process once the number dips below 20 colleges.
From the remaining number of colleges, select the ones that match you best academically and financially. This should be a pretty good list that won’t break the bank and will give you a meaningful college experience.