This year’s FAFSA brought about a big change that many people likely won’t notice: Colleges will no longer see either where they were listed on the FAFSA or what other colleges are receiving the student’s FAFSA information. Prior to this year, colleges could see the student’s entire list of where their FAFSA information was being sent. Many schools considered where they were “ranked” on the student’s list as an indication of the student’s interest in their school.
However, state grant agencies will still receive the student’s full list. For this reason, many recommend listing state schools to which you’re applying first, as state grants are often limited to in-state schools. If you’re unsure if this applies, check with your state agency. Or just list your in-state choices first since no one else will see them. (State agencies and their deadlines are listed on the FAFSA.)
Remember, too, your FAFSA will only be sent to 10 schools. If you’re applying to more than 10, you’ll need to leave some of them off. Before omitting schools randomly, you can use the FAFSA 4caster to estimate your family’s EFC (remember to add back retirement plan contributions to your AGI to be more accurate). If there are schools for which you’re unlikely to qualify for need-based aid and the FAFSA is not required for consideration for merit aid, those schools can be left off.