Order of colleges on the FAFSA

To qualify for Federal financial aid a student and their family needs to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, aka the FAFSA. The priority deadline to complete the FAFSA varies from college to college but is often between February 1 and March 15 of the student’s senior year so many people are currently working on, or thinking about working on, their FAFSA.

At the end of the FAFSA you are asked to list the colleges to which the FAFSA should be sent. Every year some people ask if the order of the colleges listed makes any difference. In other words, if you put College A before College B does that somehow indicate a greater interest in College A for admissions. For most colleges the answer is no, it does not make any difference in which order the colleges are listed. However, there are some colleges where it might make a difference in admissions or in the financial aid package the college gives the student. If the college looks at your list of colleges and determines that they are a likely choice for you if admitted and if you are the type of student they want, they may put together a financial aid package that is more attractive than they might otherwise do. On the other hand, if they perceive that they are less likely to have you enroll they may save their better financial aid packages for another student.

So what to you do? You have two basic options. One is to put the colleges in your order of preference and don’t worry about the effect that may have. The second option is to put your colleges in alphabetical order thus sending the message to the colleges that the order of the list has no importance.

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