The FAFSA position is a historical term in college admissions in the United States that referred to the position where a prospective college appeared on an applicant's FAFSA form. FAFSA permits an applicant to list up to ten colleges on the form, and the entire list was historically sent to each college. As a result, admissions officers could see which other colleges a student is applying to and the order in which the colleges were listed.
The US Department of Education changed the FAFSA for the 2016–2017 academic year to prevent schools from viewing other schools that may be listed on the application. A higher FAFSA position had been interpreted by admissions officials and enrollment consultants as a sign of greater demonstrated interest. Accordingly, a college's FAFSA position may have affected decisions regarding whether a student was admitted to the college, waitlisted, or how much financial aid was offered. One report suggested that the importance of the FAFSA position as a factor signifying greater demonstrated interest was exaggerated.
Advisers suggested that applicants list colleges alphabetically to obscure any preferences. There had been calls for the Department of Education to stop releasing data about other colleges as a matter of privacy or to alphabetize the list automatically.
- Note: FAFSA is an acronym for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
- W. Kent Brands, Huffington Post, June 19, 2013, Does Big Data Know Best? NSA and College Admissions, Accessed Dec. 13, 2013
- Reuters, Liz Weston, November 11, 2013, Yahoo Finance, COLUMN-Colleges may penalize you for ranking financial aid applications, Accessed Dec. 13, 2013, "...Colleges are keenly interested in what's known as "FAFSA position" ... the ones they list first strongly predict which enrollment offers they're likely to accept..."
- "Summary of Changes for the Application Processing System 2016 2017" (PDF). US Department of Education. December 2015. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
(see page 3:) "...We have designed a solution for 2016-2017 that allows us to send an ISIR to each school listed on the student’s record and only include the Federal School Code of the school receiving the ISIR..."
- Liz Weston, Reuters, November 11, 2013, Daily Finance, Colleges May Penalize Students Over Preference on Financial Aid Applications, Accessed Dec. 12, 2013, "... Students can list up to 10 schools to receive their financial aid information, and the ones they list first strongly predict which enrollment offers they're likely to accept, college consultants say..."
- Ry Rivard, October 28, 2013, Inside Higher Ed, Using FAFSA Against Students, Accessed Dec. 12, 2013, "...Now, some colleges use this FAFSA position when considering students’ applications for admission, which may affect decisions about admission or placement on the wait list, said David Hawkins..."
- CBS News, Lynn O'Shaughnessy, October 30, 2013, Be careful what you share on the FAFSA, Accessed Dec. 12, 2013, "...The order, however, could also be hurting students who list their favorite school as No. 1. If a teenager shows too much interest in a school, the admission office may decide to offer the applicant a lower award because it is assumed that the child will enroll anyway..."
- Rachel Fishman, October 28, 2013, Access to Higher Education, Higher Ed Watch, The Dark Side of Enrollment Management Archived 2013-12-17 at the Wayback Machine, Accessed Dec. 13, 2013, "...The FAFSA should either not allow institutions to see where students have applied or it should list the institutions in alphabetical order..."
- Rachel Riley, Daily Free Press (Boston University student newspaper), Oct 31, 2013, Report suggesting colleges discriminate based on FAFSA exaggerated, officials say, Accessed Dec. 13, 2013