Is FAFSA worth it? Fill out the FAFSA and see what types of college financial aid for high-income families are available. (Yes, even for parents with a high EFC!)
“I make a lot of money. Should I even bother filling out the FAFSA?”
“I know my expected family contribution (EFC) will be a lot. I shouldn’t even think about applying for financial aid, right?”
“I make more than $100K. Are there any colleges that will give me financial aid?”
"What is a good EFC number?"
"Why is my EFC so high?"
At Edmit, we often get financial aid questions from families across all income brackets—and we’ve learned that financial aid confusion is very common. So if you’ve found the financial aid process befuddling and frustrating, you’re in good (and plentiful) company.
Today, let’s delve into financial aid options for families that have a high EFC. If you’re earning $100,000 or more and anticipate your EFC will be high, should you even bother applying for financial aid? The answer is yes.
You Have a High Income. Should You Fill Out FAFSA?
“There is no circumstance under which it’s not worth applying,” says David Sheridan, director of financial aid at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. “I’ve seen people pleasantly surprised by the amount of financial aid they receive. I have seen people who wind up qualifying for more aid than they think they might, so just apply and see what happens.”
Regardless of your family’s income, first things first: Start the financial aid process by filling out the FAFSA, as well as the CSS Profile. These provide the baseline financial information for your student that each school will then use for need-based financial aid packages.
Remember, too, that the FAFSA uses information from your base income year (e.g., two years’ prior to when the FAFSA is submitted). So if your income has varied during that period, that will impact your financial aid award eligibility. Keep this in mind as you start the college research and application process with your student.
If you’re still anticipating a low—or no—need-based financial aid award, don’t give up! There are other tactics to get money for college:
Look Into Merit-Based Aid and a College’s Student Body
If you don’t anticipate qualifying for need-based financial aid, merit-based aid may be a better focus for your financial aid research.
“When a family asks me ‘how can I get the most money for college?,’ my immediate answer is it’s all about the list of colleges you’re applying to and how you fit into the applicant pool at that school,” says Kathy Ruby, director of college finance at College Coach. “So if you’re at the top of the pool and it’s a school that needs to use merit aid to attract students, then yes, you can position yourself well to get better scholarship money.”
Maria Furtado, executive director of Colleges that Change Lives, agrees: “The better their achievement compared to other students in the incoming class, the more likely they’ll get merit-based aid,” she says. “If the school’s average is 3.3 GPA and 1100 out of 1600 on the SAT, and you’re a 3.6 or 3.7 GPA with a 1500 SAT score, you’re more likely to get merit-based aid.”
So if your student is high achieving—or high achieving compared to other students at a particular college—applying to merit-based schools and/or potentially less-selective schools that would strongly desire your student may be successful strategies to get money for college.
Consider the Next 4+ Years of FAFSA Income Brackets
Let’s say you’ve filled out the FAFSA, and you don’t qualify for need-based aid now. Don’t assume that won’t change, especially if you will have multiple students in college at the same time in the coming years. For example, if you have one child starting college next year, and another in three years, that overlap year (when one is a senior and the other a freshman) may make you eligible for need-based aid.
Additionally, FAFSA may update its eligibility requirements each year—so what didn’t qualify this year may hit the mark next year. And while no one loves paperwork (especially year after year), the time investment to complete and submit the FAFSA may be worth it.
Find out which college is your best financial fit by comparing college financial aid offers with Edmit!