Five Reasons High Income Families Should Still Apply for Financial Aid

One of the roadblocks in working with Category 3 families is their unwillingness to fill out a FAFSA. In their words, they are fairly wealthy and though they don’t have a detailed plan to pay for their children’s education, they are certain that they won’t qualify for needs-based aid.

That specific reason may be true, but FASFA is much more than that. It’s not just an application for needs-based aid. In effect it is a very detailed picture of a student’s family. What these families may not realize is that bypassing FASFA can amount to other missed opportunities that can cost thousands of dollars. Or worse, it can result in missing out on the student’s college of choice.

These five reasons will cover that and more. Know them all.

#1. To demonstrate a family’s ability to pay without any help. This can help with admissions. Schools claim to accept student on a need-blind basis, but that’s simply not true. If a student is a perfect match for them AND can pay without help, how can a school say no?

#2. To qualify for merit aid. This is a biggie. Many schools won’t consider students for merit aid unless a FAFSA is filed. Think merit aid isn’t needs-based? Again, from the school’s perspective, if they are choosing between a handful of students to give merit aid, each of their FAFSAs will tell the school which students need the aid the most. Basically, if a student barely misses out on needs-based aid, they can be first in line for merit aid because of a perceived need.

#3. To give kids “skin in the game” via federal loans. Filing a FAFSA is necessary for students to obtain low-interest federal student loans. If you have to borrow for college, low-interest federal loans are the most coveted. They are only available to students who fill out a FAFSA.

#4. Because they just might qualify, particularly with multiple children. Tuition fluctuates between schools. A family’s income may not qualify them for aid at one school but it could at higher-cost colleges. That’s especially true if they have multiple children in college at the same time. Adding a second child nearly cuts the parent income in half.

#5. Because your situation might change. A job loss or big medical bill could strain a family’s finances unexpectedly. It’s not a thought that people like to think about it, but it’s scary enough for them to take the time to fill out FAFSA just in case. Having the FAFSA or Profile on file may give priority to students who already have their FAFSA on file.

I strongly recommend that you sprinkle these reasons throughout your workshop. When I say sprinkle, I mean not to be heavy-handed about it. Why? Most of the families in that room are not Category 3 and would be turned off by the notion that wealthier families can still financially benefit from FAFSA.


Be valuable.


John G. McCarthy

Managing Editor,

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