College is a Business and You Are Their Customer
When choosing colleges it is important to remember that they are competing against each other for your business, or in this case, attendance. And one way colleges can attract students is to offer a better financial aid package than the other school. To ensure you position yourself well to receive the best financial aid offer, keep these things in mind:
College Application Guidelines
- Apply to 6 to 10 Schools
- Colleges Know Where Else You’ve Applied
- The Right Mix of Schools Increases Possible Financial Aid
Apply to 6 to 10 Schools
Applying to multiple schools communicates a competitive environment to the colleges and it helps ensure you have a selection of financial offers from which to choose. This becomes important when it is time to begin narrowing down your choices. If two competing colleges are essentially equal in your mind, then you are likely to choose the one which offers you the most financial aid so your decision is that much easier.
Colleges Know Where Else You’ve Applied
They find out via the information provided to them through the Department of Education and the FAFSA form. If you list only one or two schools on that form, then you are telling the schools they have no competition and they have no incentive to come up with a better offer.
The Right Mix of Schools Increases Possible Financial Aid
If you don’t have the right mix of schools, it is the same thing as not applying to enough universities. Let’s say you’ve applied to 8 schools, but six of those are stretch schools. Since your chances of getting into a stretch school are less than a match school and your aid amount will likely be reduced should you be accepted, your match colleges may have little incentive to increase the financial aid they will offer you. They are essentially competing against one other school and could respond accordingly (see Getting The Right Mix of Colleges).