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Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships
First Time Applicants

Frequently Asked Questions

We've been told we probably will not qualify for aid. Should we bother to apply?

Yes, you should!  Many factors are taken into consideration in determining a family's financial need, and each family's circumstances are unique, so you can't know what you'll qualify for without completing the aid application process.  There is no arbitrary cut-off for determining a family's eligibility for financial aid.  The income range of those eligible for some amount of assistance covers a wide range.

When should I apply for aid?

You should apply as soon as possible after January 1 prior to the academic year in which you plan to enroll at ESF.  It is very important that you apply no later than March 1 if you are a freshman applicant planning to enroll in September.  Transfer students should apply by March 15.

Will I be eligible for the same amount of financial aid each year?

In most cases, the answer is yes, but not in every case.  Every effort will be made to continue a similar level of institutional gift aid each year.  Students receiving merit scholarships do not need to reapply to renew those scholarships.  Merit scholarships automatically will be renewed at the same level, as long as the renewal requirements are met.  Students must reapply for need-based financial aid each year.  Assuming you remain in good academic standing, file the application forms by the recommended deadline and demonstrate a similar level of need, you can expect approximately the same level of institutional gift aid each year.  Examples of circumstances that might cause a change in a need-based financial aid award could include, but are not limited to:

  • a significant rise or drop in family income;

  • more or fewer siblings in college at the same time you are attending ESF; and

  • more or fewer family members living at home.

Are all families expected to contribute toward educational expenses?

If the student is dependent upon his or her parents for support, then the expected family contribution will include amounts from both the student and parents based on their respective incomes and assets.  The contribution for students who are financially independent of their parents is based on the student's income and assets, as well as on those of the student's spouse if married.

Does ESF offer academic merit scholarships?

Yes.  Merit scholarships are offered based on a student's academic record, leadership potential or other factors, and financial need is not taken into consideration.  At ESF, most merit scholarships for new students are awarded through our Presidential Scholarship.  There are also a number of merit scholarships awarded to ESF upperclassmen based on academic performance at ESF.

If my parents are divorced or separated, which parent should provide the information required to apply for aid?

You should answer the questions using information about the parent you lived with in the past 12 months.  If you did not live with one parent more than with the other, then provide information for the parent who provided the most financial support for you.  (Support would include money, gifts, loans, housing, food, clothes, medical care, etc.)  Child support payments from your other parent will be taken into consideration, and information about the income and assets of any step-parent must also be provided.  We realize that these situations can be sensitive and complicated.  Please feel free to discuss your individual circumstances with one of our counselors.  All information will remain confidential.

What is an EFC?

EFC stands for Expected Family Contribution.  This is used by all colleges and universities to determine a student's eligibility for federal financial aid programs.  The EFC is calculated by the federal government's processor, based on the information you provide on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), using a formula known as the federal methodology.  Your EFC will be the same at all colleges that receive results from your FAFSA.  You can estimate your EFC by using a calculator provided by the federal government, the FAFSA4caster, at

What happens if our financial need changes after I enter college?

While many families' financial needs remain constant while a student is attending college, some families will experience significant changes in their ability to contribute to their children's education.  Sometimes these changes can even occur during the middle of an academic year.  We are always willing to review financial aid appeals from families experiencing difficulties due to significant changes in their circumstances.

I have just been notified that I will receive a scholarship from my high school. How will this scholarship affect my financial aid?

We encourage students to apply for scholarships awarded by private organizations.  If we are required to amend the financial aid award as a result of receiving an "outside scholarship," we will make every effort to reduce the student's loan and/or Federal Work-Study award before reducing any ESF grants.