So you’ve calculated your EFC and are breathing a sigh of relief, telling yourself, “We can do this.” Hold on a second. “E” is “Expected,” not “maximum” or “guaranteed” or anything like that. There is no requirement that your school of choice meets your financial need, or if it does, that loans aren’t part of the aid package. That’s why it’s important to apply to some schools that meet 100% of need, and to some where your student is in the top quartile of applicants (based on GPA and SAT/ACT scores).

Expected Family Contribution is just that: an expectation. Not a guarantee. Many students will receive packages that generous enough that their actual contribution is less than their EFC; others will not have their need met or have it met primarily through loans. When you receive your SAR or complete the FAFSA4caster, use that as number as a ballpark estimate, not a carved-in-stone number.

In the meantime, here is a list of schools that met 100% of need for full-time undergrads in 2012-2013.