Financial Aid

Howdy Everyone- We have run the financial calculators for various colleges. Not good-all schools came back full pay. Household income is high-assets modest at best. I actually have a small legal practice but ran numbers as if just ordinary income.
Not complaining but want to know if it’s better to just not apply for aid and maybe get an admission boost. Not sure if that is a thing, but have read some threads suggesting full pay may be an admission advantage. Thoughts please. Thank you all! This is a great resource and community.

If you apply for aid, but the institutional formula indicates that you don’t qualify for aid, then you are treated as a full-pay applicant. The aid application itself isn’t the problem at places that are need-sensitive. Actually needing aid by their calculations is what matters.

Three reasons to apply for aid if it looks like you are likely to be considered to be full pay are:

  1. Some places will require that you file at least the FAFSA in order to qualify for merit-based aid. They do that so as to make certain that students who do qualify for federal money get it as part of the total package. The aid office can tell you if this is their policy.
  2. Some places will not consider a student for aid in any future years no matter how severe the family’s financial reversal if the student doesn’t apply as a freshman applicant. The aid office can tell you if this is their policy.
  3. Some parents want their kids to be eligible to borrow the standard federal student loans, so they need to file the FAFSA.

Can you readily afford the costs of these places? That is what really matters. Decide what your real number is, and work from there.

Thanks happymomof1! Does anyone have a different opinion?

We have a local community foundation that provides merit based scholarships, but requires the student to file a FAFSA. Need isn’t considered, they just want to be sure students are eligible for the federal and state grants (some states use the FAFSA to determine need and even merit aid).

Also, you never know what might happen. I encouraged my kids to file so they’d have access to student loans just in case. My S didn’t want to last year, and it’s my understanding some schools sent CARES money to students that had filed one.

If you intend to be full pay, then you don’t need to apply for aid at all. That is your family decision. Some families don’t apply for aid at all. That is fine.

The tip for being full pay isn’t that huge. But it can be a help with admissions. Your kid needs to still be in the ball park for acceptance.

For schools that are need blind for admissions, the admissions folks won’t know if you even applied for aid. I know there is a little box on the common AP, but really, it’s the financial aid applications themselves that are how you apply, not just that little box.

How close are you? If the EFC is close, worthwhile to apply for aid. The estimators are just that, estimators. However, unfortunately, PROFILE schools likely to come up with even a higher EFC when you file the real thing because if you file a Schedule C with your taxes, depreciation and expenses are often added back into income.

I would split the application process into two camps : file for fin aid in one, and not the other, matching up the schools. For those schools that are out and out need aware, and your students stats are not in the upper echelon, do consider how much it’s worth to you that Your students gets accepted with no aid. One of my kids was accepted to such schools as full pay, no fin aid apps, even though he was in the lowest quartile in test score or used Fairtest privileges and did not submit a test score. His cousin who was in the middle 50% of the applicant pool at the very same schools, but applied for aid, was roundly rejected.

Great insight. Thanks all

Are you okay with being full pay, or do you need suggestions regarding how / where to find a strong education with more reasonable prices?

If the latter, then we would need to know quite a bit more (home state, stats, and preferences in schools).


You own a business. You don’t have “regular income” right? I would take the results of the net price calculators with a grain of salt. Your actual results when considering a business could very much indicate you can pay way more than even what you got with the NPCs.

But the good news is you will not pay in excess of the full price.

You say you are full pay…but at what cost? $30,000 a year or $75,000 a year? If costs are a significant concern, your student needs to apply to less costly schools. Or the student needs to apply where significant merit aid (that doesn’t take finances into consideration) will be very possible or guaranteed.

Your student can submit a FAFSA after acceptance and after accepting the admission offer…if all they want is the federally funded student loan ($5500 for freshmen).

Re: what @happymomof1 wrote about not applying for need based aid in year one prohibiting you from doing so in subsequent years…that is the case only for a handful of colleges if you are a U.S citizen or permanent resident. So do check. This policy is very much present for international students at many, many colleges.

One of the stats that schools like to publish is % receiving aid. If they are trying to increase that number, having a little need could be advantageous. With a fixed FA budget, giving 7 students 10k increases the % receiving aid by a lot more than 1 getting 70k.

There are schools that have policies that bar financial aid if a student, US students included, did not apply for aid from the onset. They tend to be the need aware schools. Exceptions to the situation may apply, if there has been a drastic change in financial situation, particularly due to some unforeseen catastrophe


There is a very tiny number of colleges where US citizens must apply for need based aid as incoming freshmen without restrictions in subsequent years.

This policy is much more prevalent for international students. Much more.

But students should check college policies.

The reason why I always mention that kind of policy, is that my undergraduate alma mater is one of the places that has it. Unless your kid has a college fund that can weather the ups-and-downs of the market and can cover the full cost of four years, then for that college at least, filing a financial aid application for freshman year would be a good thing. So do check to find out what their policies are.

@happymomof1 what college?

Skidmore has a policy about not being able to apply in subsequent years.

There are a couple of others…and it might be helpful if folks listed them.

And applicants need to check policies!