Financial aid is money offered to pay for college. It is distributed through a variety of means including work study programs, grants, scholarships, and loans. When a college claims to meet full financial need you will need to look at the fine print to determine what that means. Many colleges require that you apply for student loans through the government financial aid system. Then, the school will meet the gap of financial obligation that remains. With this system, even though the school is saying it is providing 100% financial assistance, you will still graduate with some debt. However, you won’t have to take out additional private loans with larger interests rates. USNews offers a full list of colleges that claim to provide 100% financial aid. The following three colleges offer exceptionally generous aid packages.
According to their website, 20% of the students that attend Harvard will have no financial obligation. Their financial aid is determined entirely on demonstrated need; financial aid is not merit based. Some of the aid may be earned through summer employment, research grants, and other scholarships. They do not require additional government loans to consider need based financial aid. It is entirely possible to graduate from Harvard debt free.
Money Magazine points out that the average amount of debt for students graduating from Duke is $7,000, while the average income for graduates of Duke, within five years of graduating, is $62,000. The $7,000 is clearly an excellent investment. Duke claims to provide 100% of demonstrated financial need through need based grants. They also offer a smaller number of merit based grants.
Students from families that earn less than $65,000 annually receive a full ride scholarship to Princeton. 80% of the students that graduate from Princeton complete their education with no debt. This generous financial aid package has Princeton ranked as number one on many lists of colleges that offer financial aid.
You may have noticed that primarily very competitive schools offer the most significant financial aid. Once accepted, you can receive generous financial aid packages and need based grants. However, you will have to go through a rigorous admissions process. Most of these institutions state that their aid is not merit based, but you will need a considerable amount of merit to be accepted. Merit includes an impressive GPA, an outstanding SAT score, and plenty of leadership roles and extracurriculars. Plan to excel from the moment you start high school so that you can get into colleges that provide excellent financial assistance.