This free tool from Federal Student Aid estimates your federal financial aid award before you even submit the FAFSA.
With this estimate, you can compare your cost of attendance at multiple colleges. Plus, you can take steps to maximize the amount of aid you receive.
Let’s take a closer look at how this FAFSA estimator works as you figure out how to pay for college.
FAFSA4caster estimates your financial aid award
For many of us, financial aid is a big factor when deciding where to go to school. In fact, over 19.8 million students applied for federal financial assistance for the 2015-2016 school year, reported the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA).
Unfortunately, you don’t get to see your financial aid award until months after you apply — but that’s where the FAFSA4caster tool comes in handy.
“The FAFSA4caster tool is a great resource for college-bound students and their families,” said financial expert Amy Mahon of Reich Asset Management.
“Prior to filing the FAFSA and in advance of their college search, they should use the tool to estimate their Expected Family Contribution (EFC),” she added. “This will give them an idea of what they are expected to pay toward college based on their income and assets.”
Your EFC is the amount your family is expected to pay for college. If your EFC is lower than the cost of tuition, you could qualify for federal financial aid to fill in the gap. Plus, you could get other aid in the form of scholarships or college grants.
Once the FAFSA4caster reveals your potential EFC, you’ll have a sense of how much you’ll need to pay out of pocket. If your EFC is higher than you think your family can handle, you might reconsider applying to expensive schools. By comparing the cost of attendance at various colleges, you can make a more informed choice about where to apply.
How to use the FAFSA4caster tool
The FAFSA4caster tool is like an extremely slimmed down version of the FAFSA. You won’t have to go into detail about tax information, but you do need to enter your or your parents’ gross income from the previous year. You’ll also enter the worth of your assets, if applicable.
After collecting this information, you can estimate your financial aid in three steps.
Step 1: Indicate your citizenship
You need to be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen to qualify for federal aid.
Step 2: Enter basic information about yourself and your parents
Next, you’ll enter data about yourself and your parents. This includes your date of birth, marital status, and family size. You’ll also say how much income you and your parents earned last year, as well as the worth of any assets your family might have.
Step 3: Review your financial aid estimate
Once you enter the required information, the FAFSA4caster will immediately predict your financial aid eligibility. It will indicate your eligibility for the following:
- Direct Subsidized Loan
- Direct Unsubsidized Loan
- Federal Pell Grant
- Federal Work-Study
For Direct Loans and Pell Grants, the tool will show the maximum amount you’re eligible for. But for work-study, you’ll just get an average, as in the example below. You won’t know the exact amount until you get your financial aid award letter.
Not only does this final page predict your financial aid, but it also works as an interactive calculator. You can enter the cost of a college you like and subtract your predicted financial aid from it. Plus, you can enter different values for state aid or scholarships if you’ve already earned some money for college.
By playing around with these calculations, you can compare your estimated net cost of attendance at various colleges. Instead of being in the dark about how much a college will cost, you’ll have a clearer sense of your tuition bill.
FAFSA4caster helps you make smart financial choices
The FAFSA4caster doesn’t just help you pick colleges based on affordability. You can also use the tool to get the most financial aid possible.
“[Families] can use this information to estimate potential aid from schools and also analyze if there are any ways — legally, of course — to reduce their EFC,” advised Mahon. “For example, clients can try to reduce their investment and checking/savings balances (assessed assets) if possible by paying bills ahead of time before the Oct. 1 FAFSA start date.”
In other words, it’s possible to restructure your assets to lower your EFC. If you have a complicated financial situation, Mahon suggested consulting with a personal financial advisor.
By investigating your EFC with this FAFSA estimator, you can make smart financial moves that could maximize your eligibility for financial aid.
Everyone should submit the FAFSA
Even if the FAFSA4caster says you’re not eligible for aid, you should still submit the FAFSA. According to Federal Student Aid, some students mistakenly think they’re not eligible for financial aid and miss out on assistance because they never filed the application.
Even if you’re not eligible now, filing the FAFSA is a safeguard in case your financial circumstances change in the future. Plus, many colleges look at the FAFSA to determine their own scholarships and non-need based aid.
To get the most aid possible, make sure to file the FAFSA as soon as possible; it opens on Oct. 1 every year. In the meantime, don’t forget to seek out scholarship opportunities to lower the cost of college overall.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2018!
|1 Important Disclosures for CollegeAve.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or Nationwide Bank, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Information advertised valid as of 11/1/2018. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
2 Important Disclosures for Discover.
3 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
4 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
5 Important Disclosures for PNC.
PNC Bank is one of the nation’s largest education loan providers. For over 40 years, PNC has been committed to helping students and their families make possible the adventure of college.
6 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.
Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.
Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.
SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. ©2018 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
7 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
8 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
9 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|3.94% – 12.78%1||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.04% – 13.04%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.34% – 12.99%2||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.25% – 11.10%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|5.03% – 11.23%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.12% – 13.13%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.92% – 10.01%7||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.72% – 9.68%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.26% – 12.13%9||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|