Colleges That Meet Full Need – Or Do They?

colleges that meet full need

Colleges That Meet Full Need – Or Do They?

Published July 23, 2018 | Last Updated August 4th, 2023 at 08:23 am

colleges that meet full need

Many families look for colleges that meet full need.

This gives parents confidence that the school will come through with need-based aid to help them pay for college. Unfortunately, not every school that makes this claim really meets 100% of need, at least as far as families are concerned.

Here’s what to look for before your student applies to a college that says they meet full need.

How Hard Is it to Get Into a “Meets Need” School?

Not surprisingly, schools that offer excellent aid are in high demand. As a result, they can be very selective. It’s usually very difficult to get into these schools.

For instance, the Ivy League schools often offer significant aid to lower-income students. If you have an Ivy League caliber student, that’s great!

If not, however, your student may be sorely disappointed if they are counting on getting into a school that offers this type of aid.

College % Admitted
Columbia University7
Yale University6
Harvard University5
Amherst College14
University of Chicago8
Williams College18
Colgate University29
Princeton University7
University of Southern California17
Pomona College9
Vassar College27
Barnard College17
Dartmouth College11
Stanford University5
Haverford College21
Duke University11
Smith College37
Claremont McKenna College9
Georgetown University17
Northwestern University11
Swarthmore College13
Wellesley College29
Hamilton College26
University of Notre Dame19
University of Pennsylvania9
Franklin and Marshall College36
Carleton College23
Vanderbilt University11
Middlebury College16
Colby College19
Pitzer College14
Trinity College34
Colorado College16
Bates College23
Cornell University14
Washington University in St Louis17
Harvey Mudd College13
Grinnell College20
Bryn Mawr College40
University of Richmond32
Wake Forest University30
California Institute of Technology8
Occidental College46
Davidson College20
Washington and Lee University24
Brown University9
Dickinson College43
Lafayette College28
Wesleyan University18
Bowdoin College15
Macalester College37
Tufts University14
Skidmore College29
Connecticut College35
Rice University15
Oberlin College28
Kenyon College27
Reed College31
Emory University25
Union College37
Johns Hopkins University13
Scripps College30
College of the Holy Cross38
Northeastern University29
Boston College31
Mount Holyoke College52
Augustana University69
University of Virginia-Main Campus30
UNC at Chapel Hill27
SUNY Polytechnic Institute64
Southern University at New Orleans12

How Is Need Determined?

Another important thing to consider before your student applies to a school promising to meet full need is, how is that need determined?

Many times, the schools offering to cover full need use the CSS Profile to determine that need, instead of the usual Expected Family Contribution (EFC) from the FAFSA. This means that the need numbers are proprietary and specific to the school.

As a result, you may find that these schools expect your family to be able to provide more financially than the federal EFC. This makes the need gap smaller, and the aid will be less as well. For instance, the CSS Profile can take into account your home equity and other assets excluded from the federal EFC.

Make sure you’re aware of how need is determined – and whether a school uses the CSS – before you make financial plans about a particular college or university.

Do Colleges Meet Full Need?

One concern many parents have is that much of the aid offered for needy students is in the form of loans.

Federal loans are available to every student, but they have to be paid back. Because students can still graduate with thousands of dollars of debt, this isn’t very useful aid to many families.

You may want to focus on schools that offer a “no loans” financial aid package. These may apply to all students or only to low-income students.

Fifteen schools around the country offer No Loans packages for all students, and almost 60 more have No Loans for lower-income students.

It’s important to keep in mind that although a college may have a “no loan” financial aid policy it doesn’t mean that all loans will be eliminated.

Colleges with “no loan” policies are trying to reduce a student’s need for loans. A “no loans” award doesn’t mean that you won’t need to take on any debt, but hopefully the amount of debt will be lower at graduation than at schools without these policies.

Remember, the school determines what you are expected to pay. If you aren’t actually able to meet that level, you may need to take out federal loans or qualify for private loans to meet the difference.

For example, if a college has determined that your family can afford to pay $12,000 a year, but you can only manage $5,000 through savings and current income, then you’ll have to borrow (either through federal or private loans) to make up the difference.

Before you decide on a school, use their net price calculator to make sure their determination of your need (and any expected student contribution) isn’t significantly higher than your EFC from the FAFSA. If it is, your student may be better off at a school that uses the FAFSA instead.

Colleges Self-Report Meeting Full Need

The final thing to keep in mind when looking at schools that claim to meet full need is that this is self-reported. No one checks on the school’s financial statements to make sure it’s true.

Even when they make these claims, it’s possible that not all students have 100% of need met. For instance, at Brandeis University, 75% of students had their full need met.

We’re not trying to rain on anyone’s parade. Instead, we want to help families have a realistic expectation of what “100% of need met” or “meeting full need” really means.


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

FAFSA for Divorced Parents: What You Need to Know to Make Good Decisions

Financial Aid and More: How to Pay for College with No Money

Don’t Be Overly Optimistic about Financial Aid




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