Is the FAFSA working against you: College Admissions Insider Tips

FAFSA Frenzy


As I always say, it’s not enough to know the stuff. In college admissions you have to know the stuff behind the stuff.

As we sail full speed ahead in this FAFSA season, we need to be careful. Not only do we need to fill out all of the line items correctly, we also need to strategize. I, Brian Safdari of College Planning Experts, always explain to clients that, “there is an art form to completing the FAFSA. You have to do it the right way to reap the rewards.” In an article posted by US News this past November we learned that the FAFSA is not always used solely in financial aid decisions.

The FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a required form in order to be considered for financial aid in college. Well, that’s not the only thing it is used for is it? According to Kalman Chany, author of “Paying for College Without Going Broke, 2015 Edition,” many schools weigh their admissions decisions on the order students list colleges on their FAFSA’s. Hey, seniors–are you freaking out?

To explain, on the FAFSA you can list up to 10 schools. It has been observed that, psychologically speaking, students are more likely to put the schools that they truly want to attend at the top. Noel-Levitz, a company that advises colleges on recruitment, recently released research that reviewed 153 college campuses. They found students who listed an institution first on the FAFSA enrolled at that institution at a 64 percent rate. That means students listing their top choice first on the FAFSA were more likely to be admitted and more likely to accept their admission. Because colleges are ranked according to their selectivity (or ability to get a ton of applicants and only select a small percentage of them), some argue that this is a null point; however, colleges also care about their yield. They want to accept students who will want to attend. If a student lists their institution 10th on their FAFSA, how does that look to a school?

This information is eye opening to say the least, but let’s also consider financial aid (you know… the thing the FAFSA is supposed to be used for in the college process). Colleges may extend a strong financial aid offer to a student who listed it first on the FAFSA and set aside less aid for a student who lists it last. This uses the assumption that the applicant isn’t planning to attend school #10 anyway. Or… maybe colleges will strategize differently. If they know you’re dying to attend their college perhaps they won’t give you as much aid because they know you’ll attend if accepted. Maybe they try to make themselves more money?

I know, this can seem overwhelming. What can you do to leverage yourself for admission and the most financial aid? If you want to know what to do, I recommend working with an expert. College Planning Experts lives in the world of college applications, essays, financial aid forms, and tests. We know how to strategically work with individual families to ensure they are doing what is best for them. If you want to learn more about how we can help, call us (661)295-9946. If you want to give it a shot on your own, that is okay too. Just make sure… you learn the stuff behind the stuff. You’ll be grateful you did.


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