Does checking "No" for applying for Fin Aid on the common app preclude applying for Fin Aid?

We’re, I think, unlikely to get Fin Aid. Our income is all self-employed, from a mom and pop rental business. We will have only one in college at the time, and our income is probably about 200K (but we have enormous healthcare expenses, buy ins through the exchange, pay the full deductible every year). The value of the rental real estate we own is probably about 2 million, but it’s also the source of our income - think farmer who owns his land. Kid is applying to a few Ivies, and also some flagship state U’s where he will probably get merit aid.

I know that schools say that they are need-blind, but I think that is not necessarily true. I have seen marginally qualified younger sibs of full-pay families get into the same school their older sibs had gone to, and the schools knew that the kid was likely to pay full fare, because the older sib had. As for the flagship state schools, I know that they are looking to improve their bottom line with higher paying out of state students.

So, I’m feeling that if kid is unlikely to qualify for aid, we should not check the box. Kid is applying early action to one Ivy, and one flagship state U - the rest of his applications will be regular time frame. I don’t want him to say “Yes, I will be applying for financial aid” at this point. I think that if he gets into his early action Ivy, he can always tell them in late December, “I changed my mind. I do want to apply for financial aid”.

Does anyone know if saying “No” on the common app precludes one from applying for fin aid late on in the cycle?

I’m pretty sure the financial aid deadline for early action applications is close to the application deadline - so if you miss the November 1 or 15th deadline for financial aid, I doubt saying you changed your mind in December is a good strategy for obtaining aid.

This happens…and these folks often look for schools where merit aid (no income or assets considered) will help with college costs.

Schools are not going to give you need based aid so that you can hold on to that asset. They will expect that you take a loan out against them, or sell something.

If you don’t apply for financial aid at a need aware school…the school is accepting you with the understanding that YOU intend to be full pay.

You can always file a FAFSA to get the Direct Loan at any point during the academic year.

If you need aid…do the applications. If you don’t need aid, then don’t.

The need aware school admissions department is only going to see your level of need and the schools obligation to fulfill some of that. If your need is $0, why would that have an impact on your admissions?

Your $2,000,000 in rental assets would add $112,000 to your family contribution…just at 5.6%, right? Is that amount the equity in these properties?

It’s your choice whether to apply or not, but asking later at a need aware school probably isn’t going to fly. Plus with $2,000,000 in rental property what aid would you get?

It depends on the policy of each particular school, and, as Darcy 123 notes, deadlines can be a factor.

Anecdotal evidence or a hunch is not a good basis for making a decision like this. Personally, I am confident that when highly selective schools (like the Ivies) and state schools say they practice need-blind admissions, they really do operate that way.

There are schools that are need aware in admissions that require a student to apply for financial aid as freshmen to be eligible in future years, barring a catastrophe. This poses a conundrum to parents who may not qualify for financial aid with just one kid in college but may if and when a second child enters the college scene in future years. We were that family.

What makes things even more complicated is that some of these need aware schools simply dump the applications into two categories; requesting financial aid and not, so a simple check mark on the application saying the kid is applying for financial aid, puts that application in the less favored stack. On two occasions, I’ve known AOs to unequivocally day “yes” when directly asked if switching to the no fin aid requested group would improve prospects of admissions, though they would then explain at great lengths that it was not a huge difference as “enrollment management” only affected X% of the admissions decisions and tended to impact those border line admissions with very high need.

What we did was check yes, even though we had a 6 figure EFC and then write to the AO and explain that we did not qualify for financial aid that year but might in future years and did not want to close the door on the possibility of qualifying for it simply because we did apply for aid the first year.

With, say, a $100k EFC , a student is not going to qualify for need based aid at even the priciest schoolS. However with school COAs going past the $80k mark, having two kids in college at private schools, means having possible EFCs of $50k a piece. For Profile schools, institutions EFCs would likely be more like $60k apiece. That means possible aid in the $20k range for the first kid who did not qualify for financial aid in prior years. Certainly, qualifying kid for federal work study and subsidy on Direct Loans., at very least. So there is real money at stake here.

If a need aware school has no such stipulation, I would not bother to check the box for fin aid and not bother to fill out the applications if you don’t wish to do so. I would ask the Financial Aid Officer directly about such policies as web information can change on the dime and also because old info can still be on the internet. But if it does, you need to make a decision as to how important the potential loss of fin aid in future years is to you vs a possible boost in admissions.

What happened to us is that the first kid was accepted with some merit money, and the second kid went to a state school 3 years later, so we never did qualify for financial aid. We also had increased income , so it just didn’t happen, but at the time of the first kid’s college application, it certainly would have been possible of future years of eligibility due to non catastrophic income cuts, second child at a school with a high COA. Also possible was first kid taking more than 4 years to finish. No applying for financial aid that first year could have knocked us out of any possibility for school aid had any of those things occurred.

@cptofthehouse this is only true at a handful of schools for students who are US citizens or permanent residents. It is almost uniformly true for international students.

There are a very small number of colleges that put restrictions on future institutional financial aid applications for U.S. citizens or permanent residents. You would need to check each college for their policies regarding this.

“The value of the rental real estate we own is probably about 2 million, but it’s also the source of our income - think farmer who owns his land.”

I know only one person who owns rental property, but I know quite a few farmers. My understanding is that they way that need based financial aid is calculated is really bad for people in this situation. They seem to think that you can both liquidate your property and also continue to get income from it. Personally I think that this is lousy but the implication is that nearly every person that I know with a small business, rental income, or farm has sent their children either to in-state public universities or to universities in Canada.

There is the possibility of merit aid even if you do not apply for need based aid. We did not apply for need based aid for reasons that are at least a vague resemblance of your reasons, and my understanding is that having not applied for need based aid with your initial application you do not get to apply for need based aid later.

For us at least “some ivy’s” and some top LACs were just not financially possible because of the way that they compute need based financial aid. However, we did find very good alternatives with a combination of in-state schools, merit aid, and universities in Canada.

The number of schools that adhere to such a policy for institutional need-based aid is relatively small. And, at least for government provided need-based aid (Pell grant, direct subsidized loan, etc.), this is not true.

@cptofthehouse Would you be willing to share which schools automatically put applications into two separate piles without looking at how much aid is needed? I am planning to apply for aid, but I am not expecting much, if any. I want the option to take out the Stafford loans.


Anyone completing a FAFSA can get the Direct Loans. Anyone. Even Bill Gates.

This is an instance where you can file the FAFSA after your acceptance and just get that loan. You actually can file a FAFSA for federally funded aid at any time during the academic year as long as you allow sufficient time for it to be processed before your academic year ends.

So if ALL you want is that Direct Loan, you can wait and file the FAFSA after your acceptance.

@thumper1 @cptofthehouse Thank you. At some of the schools I may qualify for some aid, so I did file my FAFSA. At the schools that are need aware, if they look at my financial aid, I won’t need as much as some other students. But if they don’t, than I will be at a disadvantage even if I would only need a small amount of need based aid. Is that correct? Is there a site that differentiates between the two types of need aware?


My free advice. If you would benefit from having some institutional need based aid, then you apply for it. Simply put, the small amount of need based aid you receive might make or break your ability to attend some colleges. It does you no good at all to get accepted and not have sufficient funds to attend.

I think trying to guess will this affect my admissions or not is not a worthwhile way to spend your time. Your applications are submitted!

Good luck!!

@thumper1 thank you! They’re not all submitted yet- finishing up but we did file the FAFSA. I was just looking at the question the schools ask on the Common App about if you are applying for need based aid and freaked out a bit. Thank you for your advice! Have a great weekend!

In my kid’s situation, it’s a tough one. Funny thing is that when you consider that we have to buy our own health insurance, at about 35K/yr (what with premium and deductible, and we will ALWAYS hit the max deductible), we actually earn less than the 180K/yr threshold for need-based aid at the Ivies. But because they don’t take that into consideration, we could go from paying 18K/yr tuition (plus I assume living expenses) to paying 55K/yr tuition, plus living expenses. And yes, I suppose that we could sell some rental properties to pay 250K for college - and after we’ve done that, we would qualify for financial aid, based upon income - but that would be after kid was done. Right now, during the eviction moratorium, it’s almost impossible to borrow money on tenement rental buildings, because the lenders know that the tenants can stop paying rent at any time, and the landlord has no recourse. So even if we had to, we might not be able to pull money out of the rentals.

Kid is applying to 3 Ivies, which are, I think, all need-blind, plus a couple of state schools and a Canadian school (at all of which I’d be surprised if he didn’t get merit aid), plus a couple of private non-Ivies, one of which says need blind, the other of which is not need blind.

So if admissions is truly need-blind at the schools that say that they are need-blind, then it doesn’t matter whether we check the box. The one school that says it is need-aware, is not one that we are absolutely dying for him to go to. It would be nice, but I won’t cry if kid winds up at the safety flagship state U, or the out of state U, or the Canada school, which I think is higher on the list for kid, anyway.

So, I guess we check the box, even if it affects kid’s chances at that need-aware school. And the irony is, that having done that, kid probably won’t qualify for any need-based aid, anyway! I just hope that need-blind is truly that, and that it won’t decrease kid’s chances of being admitted, if kid checks the box.

I agree with much of the earlier posts.

First things first…lots of people pay that much in health insurance. It’s an expense, and doesn’t impact your earnings. Of course it impacts how much you have left over each month to live on, but it’s just another expense, like a mortgage, food costs, car payment, etc.

I hear you on the real estate investment property issues, and really, at any time people with investment real estate and/or farmland tend to not fare as well in FA calculations. Some schools really do seem to have the expectation that people sell some or all of those assets to pay for college. Sometime in the last few years there was a CC post stating that a Dartmouth FA officer directly said to a family who owned land, and had a very high EFC, that the expectation was they would sell part of their land to pay for college.

Anyway, have you run the NPCs for each Ivy? Do they show you as full pay? The good thing is no one has to choose an expensive school to attend. It also sounds like your kid may get merit at some schools which would also reduce your costs.

A few comments about colleges and need-blind terminology. Schools can be need-blind and use other proxies to guesstimate/model an applicant’s income/level of need. Things like parents’ jobs, home zip code, whether the family visited the school, and from how far, and other markers are used by some schools in their predictive analytics tools.

I do generally believe that admission depts from need-blind schools don’t communicate with financial aid about an individual applicant’s level of need until after the admission decision is made.

However, and I think this gets lost sometimes on CC…need-blind does not mean admissions is necessarily blind to whether an applicant checked the ‘are you applying for FA box’. Some need-blind schools suppress that question, some don’t. And I don’t really think the answer in that box impacts the admission decision at a need blind school.

Well, I don’t think I have yet gotten a specific answer to the question. Does anyone know if one applies having said, “I do NOT intend to apply for financial aid”, if one can then apply for financial aid after acceptance? There certainly is time after early action acceptances to apply for financial aid.

You can certainly file the FASFA later to apply for federal student loan aid but some schools have a 11/1 deadline for institutional aid. For example Cornell - the ED deadline is November 16th and the financial aid deadline is November 21. Similarly for RD, the deadline for aid is well before you’d have a decision.

You should be able to find the financial aid deadlines on the admissions pages for the schools on your students’ list.

For state schools, some will tie merit to financial aid applications too so you could be shooting yourself in the foot by not submitting.

I received some very helpful advice here to call each school’s FA department directly to ask how they treat that situation. I’ve received a slightly different answer from every school I emailed or called.

One of the need-aware schools on my child’s list directly stated that you cannot apply for FA in future years if you didn’t apply at the time of application, and that financial aid awards are set for 4 years unless you have a “catstrophic change in circumstances”. Another stated that you can apply later (for instance after admission decision), but only once the student has completed a certain number of credits. (This was from a need-aware school). Both schools implied that applying for FA might possibly affect admissions, and that whether or not you checked the “don’t plan to apply for aid” box, the act of submitting the FAFSA or css profile is equivalent to “unchecking the box” and is signaling that you are applying for aid.

The FAFSA-only schools on my child’s list had more or less the same answer which was that checking the box, or not, or submitting a FAFSA, or not, have no impact on either admissions or merit aid.

There does seem to be a difference between some schools in terms of what they do with the information with that box checked. I found almost all the schools to be very responsive and helpful when I just asked directly.

Good luck!

Well, I think all kid’s schools say they’re need-blind, so I guess just easier to check the box, even though I don’t think we’ll get need-based aid.

Any specific “yes” or “no” answer you get will not be universally accurate. Any specific and accurate universal answer you get will not be a simple “yes” or “no.”

I have personal knowledge of an applicant who checked “I do NOT intend to apply for financial aid” and did not receive any aid for the first year, and then subsequently applied for and received institutional need-based aid in the sophomore, junior and senior years. For institutional aid, this is completely based on school policy, which is different at every school. That is why you did not get the specific answer to your question that you were hoping for.

33mom33 offers great advice - call each school’s FA department directly to ask how they treat the situation.