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 University 7
Yale University 6
Harvard University 5
Amherst College 14
University of Chicago 8
Williams College 18
Colgate University 29
Princeton University 7
University of Southern California 17
Pomona College 9
Vassar College 27
Barnard College 17
Dartmouth College 11
Stanford University 5
Haverford College 21
Duke University 11
Smith College 37
Claremont McKenna College 9
Georgetown University 17
Northwestern University 11
Swarthmore College 13
Wellesley College 29
Hamilton College 26
University of Notre Dame 19
University of Pennsylvania 9
Franklin and Marshall College 36
Carleton College 23
Vanderbilt University 11
Middlebury College 16
Colby College 19
Pitzer College 14
Trinity College 34
Colorado College 16
Bates College 23
Cornell University 14
Washington University in St Louis 17
Harvey Mudd College 13
Grinnell College 20
Bryn Mawr College 40
University of Richmond 32
Wake Forest University 30
California Institute of Technology 8
Occidental College 46
Davidson College 20
Washington and Lee University 24
Brown University 9
Dickinson College 43
Lafayette College 28
Wesleyan University 18
Bowdoin College 15
Macalester College 37
Tufts University 14
Skidmore College 29
Connecticut College 35
Rice University 15
Oberlin College 28
Kenyon College 27
Reed College 31
Emory University 25
Union College 37
Johns Hopkins University 13
Scripps College 30
College of the Holy Cross 38
Northeastern University 29
Boston College 31
Mount Holyoke College 52
Augustana University 69
University of Virginia-Main Campus 30
UNC at Chapel Hill 27
SUNY Polytechnic Institute 64
Southern University at New Orleans 12
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 College 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.
(Get more information on the schools that meet 100% of need. Included in this list is average amount of need award, % of students who do not receive need-based aid; and the average amount of non-need money awarded to students without need.)
Download: Colleges That Meet 100% Need
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.
Are you looking for colleges that can offer your student needs based aid or merit scholarships? We can help. Find colleges that can be the most generous to your student with merit scholarships. Use our College Insights tool to make the searching fast and easy!
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