Graduation cap on top of cash

How does financial aid work?

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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 student's FAFSA 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: $32,500
EFC: $7,500
Remaining Financial Need: $25,000

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: $32,500
EFC: $32,500
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 a need-assessment using the student's calculated FAFSA EFC.


While not a formal deadline, student's are encouraged to submit their initial FAFSA for processing by February 20 to meet the Cedarville's priority packaging date of March 1.

FAFSA Resources

See our FAFSA resource page for helpful resources to help with completing the FAFSA successfully, including a webinar recording on Completing the FAFSA.