For those of you who know, can anyone give me a general overview of the financial aid process from beginning to end? I am very confused because I have never done this before.
This is what I know - I fill out the FAFSA and receive my SAR with my EFC. This is also sent to my schools. I also fill out the school-specific forms. Then, based on all this info, the schools determine financial aid packages by calculating the difference between the estimated budget and the EFC? Do most people get that calculated amount from the schools? Or do they get some from the schools, then try to get the rest in Stafford loans? Or is this the other way around?
Once you're done with your fafsa, you'll get an EFC. The offer that the school makes to you is going to = your student budget - any EFC they deem appropriate (for some schools, this depends on how long you've been declared an independent on your tax forms).
Student Budget (approx $50K) - EFC deemed appropriate = Offer
The thing is ... the "offer" can also be made up of student loans, subsidized or otherwise. The nice thing is that these tend to be loans offered by the school instead of, say Wells Fargo, so they wont kill you with the interest.
This was the way it kinda worked for undergrad, so I hope I'm not leading anyone around the wrong path.