At admissions time each year, students across the country are agonizing over applications and essays, totally consumed with getting into their college of choice. At the same time, parents are crunching the numbers, trying to figure out how they will pay for it all. Many of these families know that their child needs financial aid but fear that applying may negatively affect their children’s options. Could this happen? It is definitely possible.
Applying Does Not Mean Needing
Simply filling out the FAFSA will not harm your child’s chances at any college or university. In truth, if your child will need to take out student loans, filling out the FAFSA is an absolute necessity to be eligible for Unsubsidized Stafford Loans or Parent PLUS Loans. Filling out the forms has no impact on the school. If you are unsure of whether your child will qualify for aid or if he will need it at all, apply anyway to be on the safe side. If you have a financial need, your child’s awards will be determined by the results of the FAFSA. Merit-based aid, however, is awarded by the schools in an attempt to lure high achieving students. You generally do not need to apply for school-based merit aid.
Need Blind or Need Aware?
Check with the schools to which your child is applying to see if they are Need Aware or Need Blind. At Need Aware schools, admissions my take a family’s financial status into consideration when selecting students for admissions. Need Blind schools, on the other hand, keeps financial aid and admissions completely separate and a financial need will have no impact on admissions decisions. If, however, your child has been waitlisted and you do not need financial aid, it may be beneficial to withdraw the financial aid application. If you are unsure what type of school you child is applying to, call the financial aid office and ask. They will be happy to disclose this information to you.
When Is Your Child Applying?
Another factor to consider is when your child is applying. Schools typically have less incentive to provide merit aid during Early Decision. Many schools will hold back such funds until regular admissions to lure additional students to the school. While there are some merit awards given to Early Decision students, the amount is substantially smaller than during regular admissions. Before you decide when to apply, check to see if the school offers merit aid. If it does not, go ahead and apply early.
Adding financial aid into the admissions process definitely makes things more complicated. However, you can make it work by following these steps and by remembering that applying for aid and needing it impact things in vastly different ways.