HUGE difference in EFC for my 2 college students - HELP!

I completed the 2022-2023 FAFSA applications for my 2 daughters currently enrolled in college and the EFC is drastically different for each of them and I can’t wrap my head around why. I called FAFSA and they are of no help. My oldest who is currently a Junior got an EFC of $925. My younger daughter who is currently a Freshman got an EFC of $5428!!!???

I am not new at completing these so I can’t fathom why there would be such a big difference especially when my older daughter has more money in her checking/savings accounts.

I used the IRS import tool on both of their applications so there shouldn’t be an error there. I have gone back and reviewed both of their applications and can’t find any error I could have made.

The ONLY difference is that my younger daughter did make $1400 more than my oldest in 2020.

I have reached out to the school and unfortunately, they won’t be able to access the application on their end until next semester. They are telling me not to worry but it’s really bothering me.

My income did go up from the last FAFSA as well but not significantly and it should affect both of them, not just one.

Has anyone heard of such a big difference?? Any ideas, suggestions, help or guidance anyone could provide would be greatly appreciated. I know I’ve got time to get this figured out but I’m an overthinker and this is stressing me out as the difference has significantly reduced the projected amount of aid my younger daughter will receive, both her Pell Grant and Stafford loan.

Thank you to anybody who can offer some advice!!!

Sounds like the difference in student income wouldn’t explain the EFC difference. What about savings accounts?

Did you enter 2 students in college on both FAFSAs?

Print out the SARS for each and do a line by line comparison. I am assuming the DRT would not be the issue!

Plug the numbers you used into the actual 2022-2023 EFC formula and see for yourself how the two different EFCs were derived.

2022–2023 Expected Family Contribution (EFC) Formula Guide | Knowledge Center


It may not be the big difference that it feels like. Both will be Pell eligible which is about as much need as you can demonstrate.

But the amount of Pell grants would be almost $4000 different.

Did you go directly from filing for one to the other? The application will ask “Do your parents have another child to file FAFSA?” and then it imports all the parent info. If so, it would be the difference in the student section. If not, it could be an error in either section.

Like someone suggested, print out both forms and go line by line. It could go either way, that ‘jr’ daughter put some income or savings in wrong or ‘freshman’ daughter could have entered $14000 rather than $1400.

Frustrating. I think you are right to stay on this and not wait until spring.


I didn’t know Pells were dollar for dollar between $5800 and $0. That’s a little weird because you can get a Pell worth more than $5800.

In any case, I agree, call. Most admissions and FA offices are very helpful.

I have gone through both line by line and everything is correct which is why this is so frustrating. I did not do the applications the same day. I did my older daughter’s app early last week and my younger one’s this past Monday. Because of the EFC, there are big differences in their projected aid…

Junior Daughter…

EFC $925

Stafford Loan Estimate $7500
Pell Grant Estimate $5545

Freshman Daughter…

EFC $5428

Stafford Loan Estimate $6500
Pell Grant Estimate $1045

This makes no sense. I am so frustrated

Because you did the FAFSA’s on different days, were any of the entered assets different?

No extra zeroes anywhere? Are you sure you put 2 kids in college for freshman D? I also don’t understand why freshman D would qualify for $6500 in stafford loans, s/b only $5500.

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I actually had more money in my bank account the day I did my older daughter’s fafsa who got the lower EFC. Both apps show I have 2 in college and there are no errors in the amounts entered for what they have in their bank accounts

This is for next year, her sophomore year so I’m assuming that is the difference in the Stafford loan


sending you a PM

Yeah, the loan amounts are based on their year in college, although the amount of subsidized loans might be based, in part, on the EFC.

Have someone else go through the documents line by line. My eagle-eyed daughter can spot something I’ve missed over and over.

Could the error be in something that is grayed out, something from the DRT?

It’s not dollar for dollar but in groups, so the daughter with EFC ~$900 would be in the group that gets $5500 and the one with the EFC of $5500 in the group that gets $1045.

Pell is now up to $6200 or so.


That’s the only thing I can think of but FAFSA office said only the school can see that info on their end. I did have my sister take a look and she couldn’t find any errors either.

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Any chance you did a rollover of a tax deferred retirement plan…and checked the little box on one kid’s FAFSA but not on the other?

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Get a good night’s sleep, wake up tomorrow with (hopefully) less frustration, and work with the 2022-2023 EFC formula. If you really want an answer as to why the numbers turned out the way they did (and it sounds like you really want that answer), seeing how the formula works with your numbers will give you the answer.

I agree. Working through the formula manually for each child will allow you to see where things differ.