College Planning Resources

EFC and FastWeb

What is the EFC (Estimated Family Contribution?)


EFC is the abbreviation for Estimated Family Contribution. Your EFC amount is used by the school that your student is applying to as well as the Federal Government in determining how much your family can contribute to your student’s college education.


Your EFC number is the heart and soul of the financial aid process. The EFC score will determine if you qualify for federal financial aid assistance. Federal financial aid can be used for all post-secondary educational expenses, while in school.


  • The higher the EFC, the lower the chance a student will have to receive "free" money from the government for financial aid.
  • Tax information from either parent is utilized for minors, and independent students filling out a FAFSA on their own use their own tax information.
  • If a potential student's EFC is fairly low, a university may be able to qualify a student for a Pell grant from the government, which is not required to be paid back. Also, if a student receives a low EFC score he will be more likely to receive subsidized loans, which have fixed interest rates that do not accrue interest while he is in school, but are required to be paid back after he receives a degree or finishes attending the school.
  • If a potential student's EFC is high, they still will qualify to receive student loans but the loans can be subsidized or unsubsidized. Unsubsidized loans accrue interest while the student is in school.

The EFC is based on a preset formula that, in the case of Federal financial aid, is set by law. The EFC formula takes into account the following criteria:

  • Income
  • Assets
  • Employment benefits
  • Family size
  • Number of family members in college

Note: Your EFC is not the amount of money your family will have to pay for college nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your school to calculate the amount of federal student aid you are eligible to receive.


When a student applies and submits a FAFSA (Free Application for Financial Student Aid) application the student will automatically receive an EFC number. This number represents the amount a family can expect to contribute towards a student’s college costs. Financial aid administrators (FAAs) determine an applicant’s need for federal student aid from the U.S. Department of Education and other sources of assistance by subtracting the EFC from the student’s cost of attendance (COA).


The EFC score is used to determine the need for aid from the following types of federal student financial assistance: 

(1) Federal Pell Grants, Academic,

(2) Competitiveness Grants (ACGs),

(3) National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grants (National SMART Grants).

(4) Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants (TEACH Grants)

(5) Subsidized Stafford Loans (through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan [DL] Program or through the Federal Family Education Loan [FFEL] Program)

(6) “Campus-based” programs—

  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOGs)
  • Federal Perkins Loans
  • Federal Work-Study (FWS)

SAR (Student Aid Report)

All data used to calculate a student’s EFC comes from the information the student provides on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). After the FAFSA has been processed, your school will send an output document containing information about his or her application results. This document, which can be paper or electronic, is called a Student Aid Report (SAR).


The SAR lists all the information from the student’s application and indicates whether or not the application was complete and signed. The SAR will include the student’s EFC if the application is complete and signed and no data conflicts. Students are instructed to carefully check the information on the SAR to ensure its accuracy. All schools listed on the student’s FAFSA receive application information and processing results in an electronic file called an Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR). Each school’s financial aid office then subtracts your expected family contribution from their school’s unique cost of attendance (COA), resulting in your financial need for that school.


There are many variables involved in calculating your unique Expected Family Contribution; therefore it’s very hard to give any rules of thumb about what someone’s EFC will be based on a single factor such as income or assets. The Department of Education does provide an online estimation tool called the FAFSA4caster to help families estimate their EFC.


Be aware of the penalties, fines and or jail time, if you fudge your information. The easiest way to cut your expected family contribution is to be declared an independent student, though this requires meeting certain criteria. By removing a parent’s income and assets, it could substantially decrease the EFC and qualify you for more financial aid.


Dependency Status Determination

Dependency in financial aid is significantly different than dependency for tax purposes. Listed below are the criteria the Department of Education classifies as an dependent student

Regardless of how much support a student actually receives from his or her parents, he or she is still considered a DEPENDENT student for financial aid purposes UNLESS at least one of the following criteria is met:

  1. For the 2011-12 school year, the student was born before January 1, 1988; or
  2. the student is married; or
  3. the student has a child or children who receive more than half their support from the student; or
  4. the student has dependents (other than a child or spouse) who receive more than half their support from the      student, and who also live with the student; or
  5. the student is enrolled as a graduate or professional student (pursuing a master’s degree or doctoral      degree); or
  6. the student is a qualified veteran of the U.S. military, or currently serving on active duty in the      U.S. armed forces for purposes other than training; or
  7. the student is an orphan (both parents deceased) or ward of the court or in foster care at any time after      turning age 13, or was a ward of the court until age 18; or
  8. the student is/was in legal guardianship; or
  9. the student is/was an emancipated minor; or
  10. the student was an unaccompanied  youth who was homeless or at risk of being homeless on or after July 1, 2010; or
  11. the student has special and unusual extenuating circumstances that can be documented for his or her      college financial aid administrators, who may then request a “dependency  override” on the FAFSA application. (Note: Exceptions are granted very rarely and only in extreme cases.) Students should contact the financial aid office at the school they will be attending for additional information.

Independent Status Determination

The most important aspect of this is to remember that your school has the right to reassess certain circumstances, a process called professional judgment.


If you answer Yes, to any of the following questions, you are considered an independent student on the FAFSA:

If you are considered an independent student, your parent’s information is not required on the FAFSA.

What is FastWeb?


Fastweb is the premier online resource for paying and preparing for college.

For fifteen years, we have excelled in providing students with the resources to realize their educational pursuits, from the time they begin their college search in high school to the day they land their first job after graduation.


Fastweb members are matched to relevant scholarship opportunities completely free of charge. With roughly 1.5 million scholarships worth over $3.4 billion, there are scholarships for every student’s educational goals, activities and interests. Additionally, Fastweb members can depend on us for insider financial aid tips and job and internship matches in their area.


Our success stems from our commitment to empower students lives through information and innovation, creating an environment in which the scholarship and financial aid industry is better defined and more attainable.


Our Mission

To empower students to improve their lives.


FastWeb is a free online scholarship matching service and college search service founded by Internet pioneer Larry Organ in 1995. The company was one of the first 100 commercial websites in the United States. FastWEB is an acronym for (F)inancial (A)id (S)earch (T)hrough the (WEB). FastWeb is recommended by more than 16,000 high schools and 3,600 colleges. Last year, one out of three college-bound high school seniors used the site, and more than 50 million students have created FastWeb accounts since launching in 1995.


Students submit a detailed profile to the site, which then matches the profile against a scholarship database that lists more than 1.5 million awards worth more than $3.4 billion. The scholarship database is updated daily, and the site automatically notifies the student when a new award is added that matches the student's profile.


The typical high school senior will match more than 100 awards. Students who submit a more complete profile will match significantly more awards than students who answer none of the optional questions.


On July 12, 2001, Monster Worldwide, which also owns other well-known websites such as, and, announced that it had acquired FastWeb in its furthering campaign in reaching into higher education oriented sites.


On May 2, 2006, Monster Worldwide, announced that it had acquired PWP, LLC, which managed a network of education directory websites, including, and hundreds of others. This acquisition was folded into the educational directories initiative at its FastWeb subsidiary, and became the larger part of the Monster Learning Network.


Fastweb was sold to Monster Worldwide by CEO Leon Heller who is currently the CEO of the college search site which he co-founded with Mike Moyer.

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