If you are a student applying to colleges for the first time and also applying for financial aid through the online FAFSA, listen up! According to a recent article in Inside Higher Ed, there is some data to show that colleges are actually denying admission to students and/or reducing financial aid awards based on how you list the colleges you are applying to. It is one of the last questions on the form. This is information they, obviously, must have. You may not be ranking the colleges in any order of preference but that is just how some colleges are viewing this list–as if you have, indeed, ranked them according to your preference. Why do the admission offices think this? Well, we live in the age of Big Data; there are folks who are paid to analyze all of the data that the Dept of Education and colleges receive. And, quoting from the article: “They have discovered that the order in which students list institutions corresponds to students’ preferred college.” In their minds, why would they admit a student who has placed them in the middle of the list? Or, nefariously, now that they ‘know’ you really want to attend (assuming you listed them first), maybe they don’t have to give you as much aid because if you really want to attend, then you will find a way to find the rest of the money.
The question on the FAFSA does not say “Rank your College List”. Therefore, this list is not a ranking! Some students may need to place a state college first in order to qualify for state aid! But, a private college may see that you haven’t listed their institution first and that may count against you. According to the IED article, not all colleges are using the list you create on the FAFSA as a “ranking” and, perhaps, after all of the publicity swirling around the internet about this, no colleges will use the list in any nefarious or non transparent manner. Suggestion: if you can list alphabetically, do so.
Here’s the link to read more Inside Higher Ed: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/10/28/colleges-use-fafsa-information-reject-students-and-potentially-lower-financial-aid#ixzz2kLo6DaN3