What does my FAFSA Estimated Family Contribution mean?

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      I have applied to a number of top colleges such as Harvard, Duke, Cornell, and Vanderbilt, all of which give great financial aid.

      I am still waiting on a w2 form to come in, so I haven’t filed FAFSA officially yet, but I have used several online calculators, all of which have given me an EFC number of between 1,000-5,000.

      My family only makes around 85k annually, my sister is in college, my mom is a PhD student, and we have no real savings, so it doesn’t surprise me that the number is this low.

      My questions is what exactly does this number mean? I know that I’m expected to contribute 1,000-5,000 annually to attend one of these colleges, but that leaves around 45k unaccounted for. I know that some of this comes from grants, or the school, or work study programs, but am I going to be expected to take out a bunch of student loans to cover that 45k? Because I have a friend who is attending NYU, and she is in a worse financial situation than I am, and she is taking 37,000 dollars a year in student loans.

      I also have a full ride to the University of Kentucky, so if it turns out that I’ll have to graduate from one of these schools 100,000 in debt, I’ll just go to my state school.

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