It is an unfortunate reality that some colleges will consider your ability to pay when deciding whether or not to offer you admission. Such colleges have “need aware” admissions policies.
Schools typically adopt such policies because they have limited funds for student aid and they don’t want to admit applicants without offering them adequate financial support. The result? Only the strongest applicants with financial need are admitted. Students who can pay full price are admitted at a higher rate.
These higher rates have led to a question, mostly among well-to-do students and families: if you really want to get admitted to a certain college, is it best not to apply for financial aid?
To which I reply: are you crazy? You’re willing to pay extra for college just to get into a particular school?
If you apply for financial aid, there are two potential outcomes. One: your family does not qualify for any aid and you are considered a “full price” student (and receive the admissions advantages this entails at certain colleges). Two: your family does qualify for aid, in which case it really should be getting some help to pay for college.
It’s also important to note that merit awards are only given to those who apply for aid. No matter how you slice it, you’re potentially throwing away free money if you don’t apply.
Those for whom money is truly no object (this is the case for very few of us) should ask a college about its admissions policy—not all schools are “need aware”—before they decide to refrain from applying for aid.
For more information on asking—and not asking—for aid, check out this post on the College Solution blog.