FAFSA EFC vs. College Calculator

My FAFSA EFC is 56k, a number my parents and I can definitely not afford. I’ve done a few of the college calculators and they are in the 42k to 46k range. Which is usually more accurate and why the possible discrepancy? My parents’ finances are pretty straightforward. They have no separate stocks or investments, just a 401k. The FAFSA got the income info directly from the IRS. TIA for your insights.

Some schools will include merit scholarships in their NPC result. If you were asked for stats, that could be it.

EFC is a misnomer and is going away in 2 years. It doesn’t really relate back to anything in particular. No one uses it as an actual number your family is expected contribute as far as I am aware.

Generally I would say the college calculators are going to be more accurate, they usually ask for more information. But I wouldn’t necessarily count on the lower number. It’s a good sign if you are getting similar numbers from various sources though.


Is it possible your parents contributed pre-tax to retirement accounts - this information may be on the FAFSA but not being input into the calculator. The answer you get is only as good as the information that goes in.

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The college’s calculator is generally more accurate for that college. Other colleges will vary, so do not rely on one college’s calculator to assume anything about the financial aid from another college.

Seems like you were probably doing the college calculators at super-selective colleges with the best financial aid, or colleges where you would get substantial merit scholarships for your academic stats.