There are so many colleges in the United States and around the world all with their own unique qualities. For each future college student, there are so many good reasons to attend any one school. You could be enthralled by research coming out of a institute of technology. Or you could be excited about a liberal arts school’s clean energy initiative. A reason to want to attend any specific college or university is completely yours.
Finding the right college is about knowing what’s even out there, doing good research and finding the schools that move you. But what other factors are there? Of course you want to consider your academic standing as it relates to a school’s expectations, but most students also have to think of the cost as it relates to their capacity to pay.
Not all schools can cover the cost of education or even all of your financial need, so why even try for a school that doesn’t promise coverage of that demonstrated need.
I’m in Love With a School that Doesn’t Say Anything About Covering Financial Need
We have compiled a list of every school in the United States that reports 100% coverage of all students’ financial need. This means that every student who has demonstrated financial need will get a plan devised by the school on how to pay for the cost of attendance. Keep in mind that the formula calculating need assumes a certain contribution from the student’s family, called your EFC - so 100% need met doesn’t mean that the school will be free for you. Read more here.
If your dream school isn’t on this list, it doesn’t mean they won’t provide good financial aid. There are many schools that can’t or won’t cover the cost of every student’s financial need, but they will likely offer full coverage for a few excellent candidates. Often schools reserve full coverage - or nearly that - for students that they really want in attendance. So, while they might not cover all of their students, being a strong candidate will increase your chances of greater coverage. Learn more about the importance of test scores and how good ones help pay for college.
If you think you’re a good match for a school that you would love to attend, our recommendation is to still apply. Wait to see if you get accepted and what your financial award letter offers. If it’s not as much money as you need, you can always find other ways to fill the gap left in financial aid.
Okay, but Affordability is More Important to Me than Finding a “Dream School”
We get it. College is expensive and affordability not only matters, but is a major factor in choosing the right college. (That’s why Edmit exists!) If the goal is a low-cost college degree, it may seem like a done deal to only apply to schools with 100% financial need coverage. But, let’s look at this more closely:
Most of the schools on our list are academically rigorous and offer generous financial aid packages for a reason. Their goal is to attract top students that fit their school culture, academic interests and quotas the best. By removing the ability to pay as a factor in who can afford to attend their school, they ensure that their applicant pool is a diverse group of academically excellent candidates unhindered by their financial capacity. As a result, many of these schools are very difficult to get into.
Before applying to one of these schools, consider reviewing the test scores and other information about their accepted students to see if you are comparable. Grades aren’t everything at these schools, but they are important.
Also know that just because a school is hard to get into doesn’t mean that it is the best school for you. There is a lot more to finding the right fit than academic rigor. Check out these articles for more guidance on finding your college of best fit:
Loans and Other Costs
As you can learn more about here, a school covering 100% of your financial need still means that you might pay something. It all depends: How much is your demonstrated financial need? If your financial need is very high, you might not be expected to pay anything; but in most cases students and families are required to cover something.
This will come in multiple forms. Your out-of-pocket costs will be your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is how much the school, through the FAFSAⓇ or CSS Profile, has determined that your family can pay towards the cost of college each year. This can be $0 to 100% of the cost of college depending on the family’s answers on those applications.
There are also payments that must be made over time. Schools that cover 100% of financial need are promising that they will provide a plan that will cover every dollar of your education costs. This plan can include grants, scholarships, loans, and work study. Grants and scholarships are the only forms of ‘free money.’ Work study is money paid throughout the school year by working a college-provided job. Loans provided by the school and federal government must be paid back over the years following graduation. These loans are significantly more forgiving and often have lower interest rates than private loans, but it is still borrowed money that must be paid back with interest.
A few of these schools guarantee no loans in their coverage, but most don’t. If you are looking to avoid loans, the coverage plans at these schools might not be right for you. If you are hoping to pay nothing for school, you are going to have to try to find a coveted full-ride scholarship. Though not easy to get, they do exist.
Finding Lower-Cost Schools
Many of the schools offering 100% financial need coverage are expensive schools. You are getting coverage on something expensive.
Let’s look at an example: Say your EFC is $15,000, but the school you want to attend costs $45,000. Your school is still left with deciding how to cover $30,000 of that bill. How much of that will they cover in grants and scholarships and how much will you be expected to pay back over time through loans and work study? You might be left with a lot of owed money. Now, assume you apply to a university that costs $20,000 and your EFC stays the same. This school doesn’t guarantee any need coverage, but it costs less, meaning they have more money to offer to strong candidates that they want to attend, so they offer you a scholarship covering 75% of the entire cost. Now you only have to pay $5,000. Though you might not be able to pay that out-of-pocket, you could get a job or find other ways to cover that amount without taking out loans.
If this is something that interests you, consider looking at public colleges and universities. Public institutions get some of their funding through state and federal means, so often can afford to be less expensive. Check out this list of public schools with the most financial need coverage in the country.
Also consider attending school in your own state. In-state tuition at state schools tends to be lower than the regular ticket price. If you’re interested in going to a state school as an out-of-state student, check out how to get discounts on that as well.
Finding an Affordable School that’s Right for You
We know it can be hard to narrow down the school that’s right for you while also keeping affordability top of mind.
There are many avenues you can take to make college more affordable. Definitely look at the schools that cover 100% of financial need, but it’s okay if those schools aren’t right for you or don’t give you enough coverage.
Financial need coverage isn’t the only way to pay for college or even the only way the schools on our lists offer aid. Learn more about merit aid and other ways your schools of choice cover student costs. You might find a variety of scholarships and aid options only available at each individual school. Call the admissions office or check out the websites of the schools that interest you to learn more.