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WARNING: This is a long post that I wrote when I was a little emotional. If you want a quicker look, read the first line and the 4th and 6th paragraphs, or scroll down for a TL;DR. (For all you parents, that's "too long; didn't read"). Thanks for taking a look at this.
My family's income is technically ~$200,000.
My mom's income is about $65k-$70k of that, and we use her income for food, clothes, etc. --no savings whatsoever except what comes out of her check beforehand.
My dad's is about $120k-$125k and he pays the bills, puts stuff into savings, etc. etc. After taxes and everything taken out of his check beforehand, his actual salary ends up about $75k-$80k (I think; I could be wrong on that).
We are a family of 6, but I am the youngest. My sister is 26, my brother is 28, and my oldest brother is 30. My sister and brother live at home, and my other brother has a house nearby. So, although they've all graduated from college, they all still eat at home frequently and my parents obviously still pay for a lot as far as room&board and food for my other 2 siblings.
We don't live extravagantly. We never ever go on big vacations, and we don't buy top-of-the-line $60 shirts/pants (at least I don't) or anything like that. I didn't know much about what my parents made before the college financial aid process and I was honestly surprised to see that number, because we are by no means rich out the you-know-what and I don't ask for much. I go to a private high school with tuition of $15k a year and from what I little I can tell, it seems like my parents definitely sacrifice at least a little to put me there and still keep life at home the same.
When I filled out the FAFSA, it said our EFC was something like $53k. My dad's not very good with computers so I'm not sure he saw/understood that, and I didn't want him to see it at the time because that was incredibly disheartening to me. I knew we weren't going to be able to pay that. I just filled out the FA calculator/estimator for Notre Dame (my first choice by miles) in just a few minutes using whatever I could remember just to see what it would say, and it said we should expect a gap of $41k after scholarships, grants, work-study and student loans.
When I was filling out the CSS Profile for the CollegeBoard, I asked my dad what he thought they would be able to contribute per year towards my college education. He said probably the same as what they're giving now--$15k, maybe a little more. With what we have, I think that's a fair amount, and from everything I've seen, that's about what I think my family should/could contribute. This has me freaking out. There's no way in heck my parents could or would pay $40k/year for college, and DEFINITELY no way they'd let me/themselves take on that immense amount of debt.
What the heck am I supposed to do? Maybe I'm just stuck up and snobbish about this, but I don't see how (even if our income really WAS $200k) our EFC could be 25 PERCENT of that. That's UNREAL to me. I just read a thread where someone said a family with an income of $50k should have an EFC something like $3k. Doesn't that mean if FAFSA says our income is $200k, our EFC should be something around $12k-$20k? I don't know what I'm going to do. I got into the 3 schools I applied to, and honestly as much as I'm okay with the other two schools, I would ONLY consider going to them if Notre Dame was not an option. But right now things are looking like that might be the case. I should get my financial aid award letter back from Notre Dame sometime in April--we got our tax returns in pretty late and didn't send off IDOC stuff until late March. Please help a worried soul.
TL;DR :: Family income is $160k-$200k range, but FAFSA said our EFC is $53k. Is 25% income normal for an EFC? FA estimator for ND (online, not official) says the infamous "gap" is ~$41k. What do I do?