2The Basics

NO MATTER WHERE you’re thinking about going to college, you should apply for financial aid. You might not think that you “need” financial aid, or suspect you’re not eligible for it—but you absolutely should apply for it anyway.

The cornerstone of every financial aid process is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. It’s the very first thing you fill out, and you’ll have to fill it out each year while you’re in school. The FAFSA determines your “need,” or how much your family should pay for college. Your “need” has two components:

1. How much your family should pay in actual cash each year, also known as your “expected family contribution,” or EFC.

2. Whether or not you’re eligible for federally funded grants (money ...

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