Does the order of colleges listed matter on the FAFSA?

The FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid) asks applicants to list the colleges to which they’d like their financial aid information sent (much like applicants must ask testing agencies to send official reports to colleges). Many families have wrestled with the question of whether or not the colleges could see where they’d placed them on the list. The concern—and not a totally unsubstantiated one—was that a school listed deep down or even last on your list might see that as a sign that you weren’t all that interested. And they might have been less likely to offer a more generous aid package that could entice you to attend.

Thankfully, the new FAFSA has changed that—colleges can no longer see the list of schools as they appear on the FAFSA. But while the FAFSA is tied to federal aid, the list of colleges on the FAFSA will still be submitted to your home state so they can evaluate your eligibility for state grants. Some of those grants are only available to students who ultimately enroll at one of the state’s institutions. And in those cases, it turns out that some states are a bit finicky about where they must be listed on the FAFSA.

Thankfully, the Department of Education has compiled the information about each state. Check your state’s policy, available here, and list your in-state public universities accordingly.