Admissions Financial Aid

Will Applying for Financial Aid Affect My Chances for Admission?

Some colleges are need-blind, while others only consider financial need when filling the last spots or pulling from the waitlist. But colleges want to admit their best applicants, and if you need financial aid in order to afford a school, you should apply.
Father and daughter learning if applying for financial aid will affect the admission decision

We're often asked by families if a college's admissions decision is swayed by a student's application for financial aid. Do schools consider a student's finances when making the decision to admit or deny? It can depend on the college and their admissions and financial aid policies. We've pulled together some key points on the topic.

If you need financial aid, apply

Above all else, if you need financial aid to afford a college, then you should apply for it. Full stop. Because an acceptance from a college that you can't afford doesn't do you much good. So if a college's full price tag isn't realistic for your family, apply for financial aid. As well, the actual act of applying for financial aid isn't really the issue at hand. It's the amount that a college perceives you can pay (or need in aid). So, again, apply for aid if you need it.

Some colleges are need-blind

Some colleges never look at students' finances when making their admissions decisions. Those schools are classified as "need-blind." If you're applying to one of these schools, you don't have to think twice about how your finances will impact the admissions decision, as they're completely irrelevant.

College want who they want

Colleges want to admit their best applicants. So if you're a strong applicant to a school, that school will accept you, no matter the details of your financial situation. A college's admissions office wants to bring on campus the students who they believe will contribute to the student body and fit well at the school. When they find students who will do that, they don't want to be swayed by a student's financial situation.

Not many schools meet full need

It's also helpful to keep in mind that only a very small percentage of colleges meet full need (meaning they give all students their full eligibility in financial aid). So you could apply for financial aid at a college, demonstrate that you need a significant amount of aid to attend a school, and be admitted but receive a much lower amount of financial aid than the amount for which you qualify. This often happens when a school doesn't have the budget to meet every student's full need, which again, is the case for most schools. Though this puts a family in a tough situation (do you say yes to a school you can't really afford?), it lets admissions offices admit who they want to admit.

You might have other monetary resources

Colleges also know that your financial aid applications often don't paint the full picture of your family's finances. You might be a final applicant for a large scholarship, or have a grandparent or other family member planning to contribute toward your college costs. Colleges don't want to deny a student simply because it appears that the student won't be able to attend without a significant amount of financial aid. So they try not to do that.  

Financially aware on the margins

So when could your finances potentially affect an admissions decision? Often, it's for the last spots in a class, or when a college is considering who to pull from the waitlist. When colleges have filled most of their seats, and they've given out the majority of their financial aid, a school may then make a decision to admit students who they believe can pay their own way (which a school will only know if you apply for financial aid). Again, this is usually only done when a school is toward the end of their admissions process. Some schools call this being financially need aware "on the margins."

Bottom line, if you need financial aid for college, apply. That's why it's there. And if you need some help navigating the financial aid process, visit our dedicated page. You'll find helpful webinars, application tips, instructional videos, and more.

Learn more about financial aid