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Why Applying for Financial Aid May Stop You from Getting into College

Why Applying for Financial Aid May Stop You from Getting into College

Applying for financial aid seems like a no-brainer during the college admissions process. After all, college costs are higher than ever, and the economic downturn left many families unable to contribute much to their child’s education fund. It can’t hurt to at least apply, right?

Unfortunately, these days applying for financial aid at some schools may actually hurt a students’ chances of admission.

The New York Times recently looked at Grinnell College, a small liberal arts school in Iowa, is one of very few schools that operates on a completely need-blind basis for admissions — and commits to meeting 100% of the financial need for each of its accepted students. As college endowments shrink, policies like Grinnell’s have become increasingly rare.

The majority of colleges and universities in the United States today are “‘need-aware’–meaning that the colleges accept most of their students without looking at their need for aid but will consider financial need for some percentage of the applicants. Others are already considering a parent’s ability to pay in many of their admissions decisions” (NYT).

How much does your financial situation really matter?

Parents and students understandably want to know how much their ability to pay for college actually affects whether or not a student will be accepted. The answer varies widely by school, and may depend on how selective or prestigious the college is, as well as the state of the school’s endowment. Colleges strapped for cash may pay more attention to how much financial aid they grant.

If you truly can’t afford to pay full tuition, submitting a financial aid form is the best course of action. After all, if your child gets admitted to his or her first-choice college but can’t afford to go there, is that any better than not getting in at all? Think carefully about what you can afford and consider less prestigious schools where your child may qualify for more merit scholarships and non need-based financial aid.

Leveling the playing field

My college granted me about half my tuition in financial aid, and I still have massive loans to pay off. Simply put, I would not have been able to attend that college without the generous aid provided. With less aid available, finding ways to provide equal opportunities for students from low and moderate income families is a real challenge.

Merit scholarships are one area where students can vie for tuition dollars based purely on their grades, test scores and academic and extracurricular accomplishments. Financial aid in the form of loans and campus work-study jobs also provide opportunities to help students pay for college without immediate cost to the school.

One important thing to remember is that thinking about how much you can afford to pay and how much debt you’re willing to take on to put your children through school is the first step of any financial aid process — whether you decide to apply or not.

Related Stories:

Skyrocketing Tuition: College Costs Could Reach $442K for Children Born Today

5 Reasons a College Education Isn’t What it Used to Be

How Colleges Are Keeping Class Distinctions Alive

 

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Photo credit: Ryan Hyde

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26 comments

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11:05PM PDT on Jul 2, 2013

Thanks for the article and the good comments from the members

5:18AM PDT on Mar 10, 2013

They need educating the most

5:00PM PST on Mar 7, 2013

When colleges can't afford to waive more than a certain percentage of their fees, it's only logical that who they admit will be effected by this very basic economic fact. Whyadmit a student you can see will not be ble to take that seat and risk having the seat go empty by putting a candidate who can afford to attend on a waiting list while they wait for the other student to withdrw their candidacy?

11:49AM PST on Mar 7, 2013

everyone should have equal access to a college education

11:30AM PST on Mar 7, 2013

A OK

10:17AM PST on Mar 7, 2013

it's sad that colleges will choose unintelligent wealthy candidates over highly intelligent poor candidates

9:09AM PST on Mar 7, 2013

everybody should have equal opportunity when choosing a college, financial aid or not, I wouldn't of made it through without taking loans, at 3,000/4,0000 semester (very cheap I must add) being an older adult going back to college, I couldn't of juggled home, work, and family without the extra help. Not enough hours in the day.

6:52AM PST on Mar 7, 2013

Jacob R said, "Whatever happened to enterprising kids that worked their way through college? I guess they joined the ranks of those that feel they're entitled to free stuff."

Let's see, the highest unemployment rate is for what section of the working class? The tuition for most state colleges is now close to $100,000. So, someone who is poor, unemployed, or underemployed should not be able to go to college because we all know they have nothing to offer society anyways.

Jacob R and those that think of like you are shallow minded and part of the problem with this country. They would prefer to keep people stupid to do the bidding of the oligarchy.

6:51AM PST on Mar 7, 2013

Jacob R said, "Whatever happened to enterprising kids that worked their way through college? I guess they joined the ranks of those that feel they're entitled to free stuff."

Let's see, the highest unemployment rate is for what section of the working class? The tuition for most state colleges is now close to $100,000. So, someone who is poor, unemployed, or underemployed should not be able to go to college because we all know they have nothing to offer society anyways.

Jacob R and those that think of like you are shallow minded and part of the problem with this country. They would prefer to keep people stupid to do the bidding of the oligarchy.

6:36AM PST on Mar 7, 2013

So - if the wealthy students can pay their way, and the poor ones can't, how much sense does it make for a college to turn down wealthier students in favor of poor ones?

No sense at all!

And the million dollar question - who ends up paying for the poor ones?

Oh - I forgot - Obama will, right? Pity he's running out of other people's money!

Whatever happened to enterprising kids that worked their way through college? I guess they joined the ranks of those that feel they're entitled to free stuff.

And there are more and more of them every day - which will get us to a point where there aren't enough people left to fund the welfare state.

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