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Defining the actual need

Now that you have an idea about the need-blind and the need-aware colleges, you must be well aware about the institutions that are most likely to offer you financial aid.

However, there is a twist in the tail; Eligible Students get financial aid, but the education is not completely free. There will always be a GAP between the aid you get from the college, and the amount you have to pay from your own pocket, i.e. the EFC.

Now students might ask- How do they find out the GAP?

In order to find the GAP, students need to determine their Actual Need.

The actual need is determined by subtracting your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), from the Cost of Attendance (COA)

The formula goes like this-

Actual Need = COA- EFC

After the actual need is determined, the GAP can be calculated.


Hence, from the financial point of view, it is clear that the less is the GAP, the more preferable the college is

The concept of GAP, may lead to another question

How to fill the GAP?

It is obvious that in 99 percent of the cases, the entire Cost of Attendance will not be covered through financial aid, and you will have to spend money out of your own bank account. A bigger GAP means you will have to spend extra money out of your own pocket. So, it is important to find a way to reduce the GAP and save some money.

In case, the GAP is too big, students can go for the following options-

  • Students can apply for grants (Money that they don’t have to repay)
  • Opt for work- study
  • Apply for federal student loans, that come with low interest.

Options Available for filling the GAP – Grants, Loans, Scholarships

The fee structure of graduate schools can be really imposing. Hence, it has become necessary to understand the various options available to students for raising finance.


If you are looking for financial assistance, and don’t want to worry about the repayment of the money, then grants are the most appropriate form of financial aid.

You can take as much amount as you can possibly get, depending on your eligibility, and the best thing about grants is that you just “take it, be thankful and forget it.”

What are the sources?

Grants can be availed from various sources, like- state government, federal government, or non-governmental sources


Similarly, Pell grants are one of the most recognized program, that awards more than $17 billion to more than 5 million students.

However, there are certain limitations-

  • To be eligible for Pell Grant your EFC has to be less than $5,274.
  • A student can get a maximum grant of $5,500 annually.


The SEOGS can be availed by only those students, whose financial background is extremely weak, and they are in utter need of money to support their education.

  • Students who have an EFC less than $4,500 are eligible.
  • The students are considered for the SEOGS on the basis of the lowest EFCs. A student with an EFC of $4,000 is given first preference over a student with $4,100.
  • While, the Pell grant is directly given to a student, the SEOGS is given to the school at which the student desires to study.
  • The amount can be collected twice from the school in a single academic year.
  • However, just like the Pell grant, there are limitations for the SEOGS as well, and the maximum amount of money a student can receive per year is $4,000.



While most grants are meant for applicants who are willing to study, TEACH grants are meant for the students, who agree to take full-time classes in those institutions, where financially weak students seek education. The students have to teach for at least 4 years, in the following 8 years after graduation.

Thus, upon this agreement, a student can receive $4,000 per year.

What if a student receives TEACH grants, but is unable to fulfil the commitment?

If a student fails to fulfil the commitment of imparting education in the most under-served population, then the money taken by the student will be converted to a loan with low interest.


The State Grants vary depending on location. For example, the students who attend private colleges based in California, can avail the “The Cal Grant award” which is roughly around $9,708.

Similarly, if you are planning to study at a private college in Missouri, you can avail the “Access Missouri Grant,” that will allot you a maximum of $4,600.


In order to be eligible for a particular state grant, a student has to study in that particular state. A student won’t be eligible for “The Cal Grant award” if he/she decides to study in the state of New Mexico.

   Need Based on Requirement

    Now let us understand the NEED on the basis of the requirement-


If, your Expected Family Contribution is $700-$500 then you should opt for a state funded college, or a community college situated in your own state.

It has two major advantages –

  • It will assist you with getting state aid
  • You can stay in your own state and avoid additional expenses.

A student who has a higher need must apply to Ivy League private colleges.

Applying to these colleges with good score and all-round traits, a student may receive financial aid, grants, scholarships, fellowships, etc. However, great scores, are the only deciding element on which you getmonetary help as undergraduates with average score have been effective in getting such advantages.



Students who have a high need with an EFC in the range of $5000-$20000 generally go for an out-of-state public university, because if-  the EFC is comparatively higher the eligibility for getting a financial aid will be lower. Therefore, you cannot depend on private universities for financial assistance. The best option left for you is to apply for instate public university or community college.


You are considered to have moderate need- if, your EFC is from $20,000-$35,000. The EFC is inversely proportional to the financial aid so you must consider your options carefully. Suppose, you prefer private universities over state owned universities, then you must consider the private colleges which provide the best facilities for financial aid.

Example- 70 percent of the students in UC DAVIS are provided with financial aid, scholarships, assistantships etc. (to support their education cost). You must apply to multiple schools as it gives you more options and increases your chances of getting the best deal.


Some families have an EFC in the range of $35,000-$55,000. So, their chances of getting financial aid are reduced drastically, and its upon them to decide how much they want to pay for the education.

However, you should not give up the idea of getting financial aid, as the situation might be different after 2 years- But Why?

Let us consider an example-

Now, you study in college; after two years your younger sibling might also study in a college. This will result in decreasing your EFC – Thereby, increasing your chances of getting financial benefits.

Most of the private schools with high tuition fee have trouble filling up the class, so any time you can expect the Financial Admission Officer to get back to you with a better deal, or even offer you a financial aid.

Since, the last decade the costs of most public universities have been increasing at a rapid pace. However, you might consider universities like – University of Wisconsin and SUNY Binghamton, as these universities offer quality education at an attractive course fee.

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