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Financial Aid

Word of the Day Wednesday: FAFSA4caster

Each Wednesday, MEFA features a Word of the Day, where we highlight a word (or sometimes a phrase) related to the college planning process. This month, we’re focusing on vocabulary related to preparing for the financial aid process.

Today’s Word of the Day is FAFSA4caster.

FAFSA4caster is a tool administered by Federal Student Aid, a subsidiary of the Department of Education, and provides families with an estimate of the amount of federal financial aid a student may receive for college, a helpful piece of information as families plan ahead for college costs. The tool requires families to answer questions related to parent and student income and assets, as well as basic personal information, such as date of birth, marital status, and social security number. These questions mirror those asked on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). The tool is available right on the FAFSA homepage.

After families input the requested information, FAFSA4caster provides the family’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC), a calculated number that intends to represent the amount that the family can contribute toward college expenses for one academic year. Based on this EFC, FAFSA4caster gives an estimate of the amount of federal grants, work-study, and student loans that the student may receive once he or she officially applies for financial aid by submitting the FAFSA. This financial aid estimate is just that – an estimate – and not a guarantee of the aid a student will receive. As well, FAFSA4caster does not provide estimates of the aid that states or particular colleges and universities may be able to offer a student.

In addition to estimates of federal financial aid, FAFSA4caster provides an online “College Cost Worksheet,” which allows the student to input a particular college’s full cost, as well as the amounts of other resources he or she may intend to use for college expenses, including additional financial aid and family savings. Based on these figures, the worksheet calculates the remaining amount that a family will need to pay for college costs.

Why is this important to you?

Though the actual FAFSA doesn't open until October 1st of a student's senior year, the FAFSA4caster is always available, and can provide families a preview into some of the financial aid resources that may be available to help the family with college costs. We encourage families to use this tool before they begin the financial aid process, as it provides insight into the types of questions asked on the FAFSA as well as the potential federal aid the student may receive.

FAFSA4caster, located right on the FAFSA homepage, is just one of the many free tools available to help you with the college planning process., the Commonwealth’s free college and career planning portal, as well as the many resources available on, including a detailed timeline, can help guide you as you make plans to apply and pay for college.

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