College in the U.s.a. is expensive—likewise expensive, in fact, for the boilerplate pupil to be able to beget on their ain. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 86% of first-yr students at four-twelvemonth colleges were receiving financial help in 2018-2019. Financial aid is good in all its forms, right? If it helps college students afford their educations, what could exist the problem?

Unfortunately, not all financial aid is created equal—and not all schools can afford to give out “good” student aid.
Here, I’ll briefly talk well-nigh the types of fiscal aid bachelor (the “practiced” kinds and the “bad” kinds) earlier introducing the colleges with the best fiscal aid programs in the land.

Financial Assistance Nuts: The Proficient, the Bad, and the Ugly

Financial aid comes from a diverseness of sources and in a multifariousness of forms.
Ultimately, all this money is meant to cover your college expenses, which include tuition and fees, room and board, transportation, and personal expenses.

Your total cost of attendance will vary depending on where you’re planning on going to school. You can get more detailed information on all these costs in our guide to college expenses.

So what counts as financial assist?
There are three master types of help you should be enlightened of:

#1: Grants
are sums of money yous don’t have to pay back. They’re usually awarded based on financial need. Grants tin come up from the federal government or from your school.

#2: Loans
are sums of coin y’all infringe to fund your education. You lot pay back these sums after graduation, in addition to paying back interest charges.
In the end, you pay back more than you infringe.
Loans can come up from the federal government (such as Direct loans) or from a private lender, such as a banking concern.

Like grants,
are sums of coin yous don’t have to pay dorsum. They can come from private sources (such as corporations) or from your schoolhouse.
They can exist awarded based on merit simply
based on a combination of merit and financial demand.

Athletic scholarships and academic merit scholarships are sometimes awarded past schools to extremely competitive applicants. These awards are given to entice students to take an offer of admission; financial demand isn’t necessarily considered in these cases.

Now that you know about the unlike forms of financial aid, we tin can talk about what assistance types are more helpful than others.


These types of assistance won’t ever exist wrong for anybody—only they shouldn’t exist your first resort.

What Is “Bad” Financial Assistance?

I ascertain bad financial aid every bit aid that’s a
good brusque-term solution but crushing in the long term.

Financial help packages are less highly-seasoned when they offer the majority of their financial aid in the grade of loans. What this means is that you’re even so responsible for those college expenses—you lot’ll just accept to pay them
yous graduate instead of right at present.

You’re as well responsible for
interest charges, which are peculiarly high when loans have high rates and/or are unsubsidized.

Private Loans

Private loans are not included in schools’ financial assist packages
because the loan lenders are banks, not the schools. If your out-of-pocket cost is also high (i.e., if grants/scholarships don’t embrace enough of your college expenses), you might consider turning to student loans to embrace the deviation.

Private loans might be viable financial options for some students. I’grand not saying that individual loans are evil and that no ane should ever take out student loans from banks. They should, however, be
the last option you consider
afterwards grants, scholarships, and depression-interest/subsidized loans.

A “Bad” Financial Aid Package

Less desirable fiscal aid packages volition
contain by and large loans, particularly high-involvement loans. In these cases, a school can’t or won’t encompass a educatee’s unmet need, so the onus to notice funding is put on the student. What this usually means is that the pupil has to have out loans to cover the cost of his or her instruction.

The boilerplate pupil debt for graduates of 4-year bachelor’s programs in the US is virtually $28,950.
For some students, fifty-fifty this average debt amount might seem unmanageable.


These aid options tend to exist better options; they’re more than sustainable in the long run.

What Is “Good” Financial Help?

I ascertain expert fiscal aid as assist
that’s a helpful and sustainable financial solution for both the curt
long term
. Basically, practiced financial aid enables yous to afford the education you need without hindering y’all professionally, financially, or personally after you graduate.

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Here are examples of aid that fit this definition:


Any free money is practiced money.
Because you don’t have to pay back any coin you receive from grants, this accolade blazon won’t hinder y’all in any way later you graduate.

Similar I mentioned earlier, grants tin can come from both public and individual sources. Bank check out our Pell Grant guide to learn more near federal grant options.


Scholarships are similar to grants.
Because they’re essentially free money, you won’t have to worry virtually repayment at any signal.

The major difference between grants and scholarships is that scholarship applicants are
nearly always evaluated on merit, even if the scholarship is demand-based.

To get started with your ain scholarship search, check out our guides to superlative awards for high schoolhouse juniors and high school seniors.

Low-Interest Loans

The bad news: loans aren’t as fun as grants or scholarships.
You have to pay dorsum the money + interest.

The expert news: loans tin nonetheless be viable and manageable solutions for students who tin can’t afford a school’s net toll after any grants or scholarships.

What makes a loan a skilful fiscal option?
Low-interest rates, primarily.
Many federal loan programs have low-involvement rates, including Direct loans. You might be able to go individual loans with low-interest rates if y’all have skillful credit. Generally, though, federal loans are better financial options.

Learn more most federal Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized loans with our guides.

Subsidized Loans

Subsidized loans tin can save you some serious money in the long run because
they don’t accrue interest while y’all’re in school and for six to 10 months afterward you lot graduate. See exactly how much money you’ll save with a subsidized versus unsubsidized loan.

A “Good” Financial Aid Package

Ultimately, good financial aid packages are
made up of a healthy percentage of grants and/or scholarships. If loans are included, they’ll be depression involvement (5% or less) and might even be subsidized. They’ll encompass some of your financial need and maybe throw a scholarship or grant your mode.

The best financial aid packages will cover
your fiscal demand.

What this means is that the school itself funds your education later on any federal grants without making you take out loans.

In the next department, you’ll get a list of schools that claim to meet all their students’ financial need—the best kind of fiscal help.

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36 Colleges With the Best Financial Help

In this department, we give y’all a list of schools that
claim to meet all their students’ financial demand without having them take out whatever loans. What that means is that your family unit will only be asked to pay what they can beget, and the school volition cover the rest of the costs with their institutional financial assistance funding.

Many of these schools are
need-blind, which means your financial status will have no bearing on your admission result.

You don’t necessarily need to be low-income to have all your financial demand met. For example, Harvard doesn’t ask for any contribution if family income is less than $65,000, and families will simply demand to contribute upwards to 10% of their income if they make between $65,000 and $150,000. Assistance amounts operate on a sliding scale for families that make more than $150,000.

Students with the most financial need tend to become the most aid
considering many of these schools’ financial assistance initiatives are based on removing barriers to college access based on finances.

If yous’re interested in whatever of the schools beneath, merely click the link to get information on admissions requirements:

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School Location Financial Aid Notes
Amherst College Amherst, MA Demand-bullheaded. From website: “Nearly threescore% of our students receive financial aid…75% of Amherst graduates in the Course of 2020 graduated with no student loan debt.””
Bowdoin Higher Brunswick, ME Need-blind. From website: “Nearly half of our enrolled students receive grant assistance.”
Brown Academy Providence, RI The boilerplate need-based award for students in the Class of 2022 was $50,108.
Colby College Waterville, ME From website: “Students who do not complete an assist application for Colby institutional help prior to access volition not exist considered for College grant assistance for ii honor years, unless in that location have been substantial changes to family financial circumstances.”
College of the Ozarks Point Lookout, MO Offers a combination of piece of work-study opportunities and state and federal grants to embrace the price of education.
Columbia University New York, NY Demand-bullheaded. From website: “For students coming from families with calculated total incomes of less than $60,000 annually (and typical assets), parents are not expected to contribute to the price of attendance.”
Cornell University Ithaca, NY From website: “Cornell guarantees that whatsoever family with a total income of less than $60,000, and full avails of less than $100,000 (including primary home disinterestedness), volition have no parent contribution and no loans.”
Dartmouth College Hanover, NH Zero parent contribution and no loan for families with income below $65,000.
Davidson College Davidson, NC Need-blind. Around 51% of students receive need-based assist, and seventy percent receive aid from some source.
Knuckles University Durham, NC Need-blind. No loans if family income is less than $40,000 (sliding scale after that).
Harvard University Cambridge, MA i in 5 students pays nothing to attend Harvard.
Haverford College Haverford, PA No loans if family unit income is less than $60,000.
Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, Dr. Need-blind. From website: “power to pay is non considered as part of the admissions process…loan-gratis fiscal aid packages meet 100% of demonstrated financial need.”
Lehigh University Bethlehem, PA No loans if family income is less than $75,000 (sliding scale after that). Loans are capped at $five,000 per academic year.
MIT Cambridge, MA Need-blind. No loans if family income is less than $90,000.
Northwestern Academy Evanston, IL All financial assist packages are loan-costless.
Pomona Higher Claremont, CA Need-blind. At Pomona, 57% of students receive need-based scholarship assist from the College.
Princeton Academy Princeton, NJ Need-blind. From website: “The average grant covers 100% of tuition.”
Rice Academy Houston, TX No loans if family income is below $65,000. Total-tuition grant if income is between $65,001 and $130,000. Above that, half-tuition grant.
Stanford University Stanford, CA Demand-blind. From website: “About 58% [of students] receive aid from Stanford, including able-bodied scholarships.”
Swarthmore College Swarthmore, PA Demand-blind. At Swarthmore, 56% of students received financial aid in 2019-2020.
Texas A&M Academy College Station, TX From website: “For students whose family income is $60,000 or less, tuition will be covered by grants and/or scholarships.”
Tufts University Medford, MA From website: Students with annual family incomes of less than $60,000 will typically receive a fiscal aid package that includes no educatee loans. In these cases, Tufts will run into 100% of demonstrated need with simply grant aid and work study funding.
University of Chicago Chicago, IL Need-blind. From website: “Free tuition for families with incomes nether $125,000 per yr (with typical assets), while families earning less than $threescore,000 (with typical avails) will have tuition, fees, and room and lath covered past fiscal help.”
UNC Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC Low-income North Carolina students may qualify for assistance without loans through the Carolina Covenant.
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Urbana, IL From website: If you lot’re an Illinois resident whose family makes $67,100 or less, you may exist eligible for the Illinois Delivery financial assist bundle, which covers the cost of tuition and campus fees.
University of Notre Matriarch Notre Matriarch, IN Need-blind. In 2020, the median need-based scholarship given to commencement-yr students was $l,000.
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA The average assist bundle for students in 2020-2021 was $56,095.
University of Richmond Richmond, VA Need-blind. In add-on to need-based aid, “all first-year applicants are considered for merit-based help, including full-tuition scholarships and a variety of interest-based programs.”
Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN Need-blind. Fiscal aid awards exercise non include loans.
Vassar College Poughkeepsie, NY Need-blind. No or limited loans for low-income families.
Washington and Lee University Lexington, VA Merit scholarships are available.
Washington University in St. Louis St. Louis, MO No loans if family income is less than $75,000.
Wellesley College Wellesley, MA From website: “Wellesley’s financial aid policy eliminates loans for Wellesley students who have the greatest fiscal need and for whom debt after graduation can be an consequence. It lowers loan packages by i-3rd for many other students.”
Williams College Williamstown, MA No loans if family income is less than $75,000. Loans are capped at $iv,000 per bookish yr.
Yale Academy New Haven, CT From website: “Families whose total gross income is less than $75,000 (with typical assets) are not expected to make a financial contribution towards their child’s Yale education.”
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Why Do These Schools Offering the Best Financial Aid?

You might have noticed that the schools in the table above are all pretty competitive private institutions. These private schools tend to be pretty elite, with strong alumni networks.
Successful alumni tend to donate more to their alma maters, leading to more than financial aid funding and meliorate financial assistance programs.

They might have higher sticker prices than many public schools, merely they tend to be less expensive for many students due to their financial aid programs.

Many of the in a higher place schools only offering need-based aid.
They don’t offer merit-based scholarships because, equally I mentioned before, their financial aid initiatives focus mainly on removing barriers to education access. They don’t have to offer merit-based scholarships to entice applicants because their applicant pool is already so strong.

What If You’re Not Eligible for Demand-Based Assistance? 2 Alternatives

Some students might want to seek out fiscal assist even if they aren’t eligible for many need-based programs. If you’re one of these students, at that place’s one important matter you need to know:
if financial help isn’t need-based, so it’due south merit-based.

There are a couple of means you can earn money for higher regardless of financial need.

#1: Apply for Merit-Based Scholarships

Many scholarship programs don’t consider applicants’ financial demand at all when giving out awards.

Start your scholarship search with our guide to awards for loftier schoolhouse seniors. Read over eligibility requirements carefully to brand certain financial need isn’t taken into account.

#2: Utilize to Schools Where Merit-Based Assistance Is Common

Few public universities or meridian individual schools offer large amounts of merit-based help—public universities can’t afford to, and height private schools don’t have to.

That being said,
schools where merit help is much more common
. These schools utilize merit-based aid to stay competitive past attracting strong applicants.

The following schools tend to award merit assistance to a
high percentage (45% or higher)
of students:

  • Fisher College
  • Loyola Marymount University
  • Sewanee — The Academy of the South
  • Landmark College
  • Southern Methodist University
  • Savannah College of Art and Blueprint
  • Southern Adventist University
  • University of Denver
  • Vanguard Academy of Southern California
  • Webb Establish
  • Keiser Academy
  • Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
  • New England Conservatory of Music
  • Fairfield Academy
  • Trinity University
  • Samford Academy
  • The New School
  • Hillsdale College
  • Gonzaga University
  • University of Puget Sound

What’south Side by side?

Now that you know where to transport in your college applications, you can start putting together a strategy for your financial assist applications.
For an overview of the financial aid process, bank check out our uncomplicated guide to applying for fiscal aid.

Already got a financial aid strategy?
Then learn how to submit your FAFSA.

Looking for other means to attend college without having to take out loans?
Check out these amazing full-ride scholarships y’all could win!

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Francesca graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and scored in the 99th percentile on the SATs. She’s worked with many students on SAT prep and college counseling, and loves helping students capitalize on their strengths.