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The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

As soon as you've wrapped up your college applications, you should plan to file your FAFSA. FAFSA stands for "Free Application for Federal Student Aid" - but we like to think of it as "Financial Aid's First Step Always." Families sometimes avoid filing a FAFSA because they don't think they'll qualify for federal aid. But the FAFSA does more than determine your eligibility for federal student aid (student loans, grants and federal Work-Study programs) - most schools also use the FAFSA to help decide your eligibility for scholarships and non-federal student aid. And states often use the FAFSA to determine state aid. Please check with for updates to the FAFSA process.

Some colleges and universities require additional forms such as the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE®. Please check with your school to see if additional information is required in addition to the FAFSA.

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Step 3 - Expected Family Contribution

You will see an amount known as your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) immediately after submitting your FAFSA online. Your EFC is the amount of money the government determines your family can contribute to your education. This figure is sent to your state's scholarship agency, as well as to the colleges you listed on the FAFSA so they can determine the size of your aid award. You can still get certain loans without a FAFSA, such as private loans, but you could miss out on some of the best loan deals and other aid if you don't file.

The PNC Education Loan Center offers a variety of loans that help finance the Expected Family Contribution amount. Send us an email or contact our customer service center to speak with a student loan specialist at 1-800-762-1001, Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm Eastern time.

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Create Your Own Strategy

Whether you're planning to borrow or preparing for repayment, we offer tools to help you create strategies that work best for you.

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You are encouraged to explore all scholarship, grant and federal borrowing options before applying for a private loan.

PNC does not provide accounting, tax or legal advice.