I’ve played with the Fafsa Forecaster and the IFAP and come very close to what the Fafsa EFC came to. The issue is, the Fafsa, pretty much, for many families, is only skimming the surface. The CSS goes into much more detail and colleges can be discretionary about what they count as assests you could tap to pay college expenses. Eg, cars.
It’s unfortunate, but single parents and divorced can sometimes come out on the short end of the FA stick.
Just because the Fafsa give you an estimate of what you theoretically can pay does not mean the college will give you the balance in awards, grants, scholarships or loans. Or sometimes, enough work study. As said, it depends on their policies and their coffers.
Good to get a resource about this- Financial Aid for Dummies, etc. Haunt that section in your bookstore or local library.
And remember, when a college sends the FA letter, they’re projecting certain expenses- they don’t know exactly what you’ll spend on books, personal, etc. They’re working off standard figure ranges. So it really is an “estimate” or working projection.
It does help to be clear on the terms. Call it a Fafsa EFC to distinguish it from any other use of “EFC.”