At each and every student-based conference I’ve recently attended, I have received the same question: Will applying for financial aid hurt my chances of transfer admission?
One student went so far as to say that an admissions counselor at one school (which I will not name) actually told her not to apply for financial aid at the risk being rejected for admission. I can’t verify whether a counselor actually said this, but I have known many students with significant financial need that this institution accepted.
Nuances aside, this question is shocking to me, so I’d like to answer it once and for all—and dispel the myth as best as I can.
Keeping Things Separate
Applying for financial aid and applying for admission are separate processes, so one should not affect the other. However, schools may consider your ability to pay the amounts not covered by your federal and state aid when deciding about your admission or institutional financial aid award.
There is a term in admissions called “need blind,” which refers to a school that does not consider a student’s financial need in their admission decision. Without the need-blind distinction, schools could technically admit only the students wealthy enough to pay cash for their yearly tuition—and reject those candidates seeking financial aid.
To avoid this unfair scenario and being accused of such discriminatory behavior, many schools adopt the “need-blind” distinction and separate applications for financial aid and for admissions.
One could argue that it would be easy to discern, based on information presented in the admissions application, whether a student is from a wealthy background. While that may be true, it shouldn’t affect a prospective transfer student’s decision to apply for financial aid. Admissions counselors realize that there are many options for students to pay their educational expenses and consider this when making their decision.
What Does This Mean For Transfers?
If you need financial aid, then apply for it. Many schools will not review your financial situation when making their acceptance decision.
Even if your chances of admission are lessened because of your financial need, there is no sense in gaining acceptance into a school that you cannot afford. As many students will tell you, having a massive amount of debt haunting you after graduation is not fun.
Need Blind Vs. Full Need
Now, just because a school accepts you, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they can pay for you. According to a 2008 report by the National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), 93% of public institutions call themselves need blind, but only 32% meet full demonstrated need. (Note: “full demonstrated need” means the total amount needed to attend that institution minus your estimated family contribution.)
With private institutions, 81% are need blind and only 18% meet full demonstrated need. When applying to a transfer school for admission, try looking for statements on their financial aid website that say something to the effect of “we meet full demonstrated need” to know if the school would be willing and able to offer grants to meet your financial needs.
U.S. News published a list of the schools that are both need blind and meet full need. Not all schools are this transparent. Still, other schools may meet your full need based on your academic standing or because they think you’re a great fit with their school. The only way to find out how much financial aid you could receive is by applying.
Do Your Homework
Now that you have the facts, research schools carefully and don’t be afraid to apply for financial aid if you need it. If the school sees that you’re awesome, they’ll know that you’re worth every drop of financial aid. If the school rejects you because of your financial need … well, that’s their loss!
Have a question about community college transfer for Diane? Leave it in the comments.