How does financial aid work?

Simply put, the U.S. Department of Education uses your FAFSA to calculate the amount your family is expected to contribute to your college expenses. This calculation is known as your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Most colleges, including Cedarville University, use the EFC as the basis for awarding need-based financial aid.

After a student has been accepted for admission, the financial aid office uses Cedarville's "cost of attendance" and the EFC to determine if a student is eligible for both need-based and merit-based aid, or just merit-based aid.

Student 1: Eligible for Both Need-Based and Merit-Based Aid
Cost of Attendance: $25,000
EFC: $5,000
Remaining Financial Need: $20,000

Student 1 is eligible for need-based aid because there is remaining financial need after subtracting the EFC from the cost of attendance. This student can receive need-based and merit-based financial aid, as well as student loans.

Student 2: Eligible for Merit-Based Aid Only
Cost of Attendance: $25,000
EFC: $25,000
Remaining Financial Need: $0

Student 2 is not eligible for need-based aid because there is no remaining financial need. However, this student can receive merit-based financial aid and student loans.

Factors That Influence Your Financial Aid Awards

Completeness of Information

Provide complete and accurate information when you submit your FAFSA. Errors or incomplete information will delay your award notification or, in some cases, cause you to lose an award.

Demonstrated Financial Need

Most federal and state aid is awarded on the basis of "demonstrated financial need" as defined by the federal government and is generally based on the student's calculated EFC.


The student's initial FAFSA should be submitted online by February 20 to meet the Cedarville packaging priority date of March 1. For best results, you should complete and return your FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1.