Gapping is an informal financial aid term. It has to do with colleges offering less financial aid than they believe you need. After you fill out your FAFSA form (and possibly your CSS Profile), you will get a dollar amount called your E.F.C., or Expected Family Contribution. This is how much the government formula says your family should be expected to pay for college. The cost of a university, minus the EFC, is your need. If a university offers you less than your need in financial aid, then there is a gap. They’ve gapped you. You’ve been gapped. This is what gapping is all about.
As I’ve been talking to clients and other 12th-grade students lately, Early Decision keeps coming up. Whether or not to apply E.D. is a difficult choice for a lot of people. While I’m generally more “pro-E.D.” than a lot of other advisors, that enthusiasm is tempered with a number of reservations. So let’s go over some of the reasons to apply Early Decision, and also some of the reasons not to. (Remember, E.D. is the “binding” early application process. You can read more about it, including why schools even offer E.D., here.)
Your Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, is the amount of money you and/or your family are expected to pay for your college education per year. The U.S. Department of Education, using the financial information submitted on your FAFSA, runs the numbers though a complicated formula and determines the "official" amount of money you can afford to pay for college. The formula they use is publicly available, and it is not negotiable.
There are currently around 100 colleges and universities in the U.S. that claim to offer need-blind admissions. Need blind sounds really great, but what exactly does it mean?
Need blind means that the school's admissions staff don't take your financial situation into account when they consider whether to accept or deny you. Your ability to pay isn't a factor. It does not mean that they don't know anything about your financial situation.