college gapping - what is it and why do colleges do it?

Parent College Coach Tip #54: Is the College Gapping You?


college gappingCollege acceptances for regular decision will be arriving soon. Your student is admitted but what happens afterwards? If you applied for financial aid by completing the FAFSA, the financial aid package will arrive shortly after the offer of admission. Then, the decision process begins—comparing awards and determining which college is the best financial investment.

But what if the college doesn’t meet all of your financial need?

The practice of accepting a student and then not offering them enough financial aid to afford the college is known as “gapping”, or “admit/deny”. Is the college gapping you?

According to The 2014 Survey of College and University Admissions Directors, over half of college admissions directors practice gapping at their institutions, although it is much more common in private schools. 72% of private college directors and 39% of public college directors say that they use this practice. The majority of private college directors, and about a third of public school directors say the practice both is necessary and ethical.

College gapping occurs when a college offers admission but doesn’t back it up with financial aid. Basically, the college doesn’t offer enough aid to cover your expected family contribution. This often happens when the student is at the bottom of the applicant pool. In this case, the gap between what the family can afford and what the college offers can often be tens of thousands of dollars.

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The best defense against gapping is to ensure that the student has applied to colleges that are a good fit for them. If a student is attractive to a college, they will be willing to entice the student with a greater share of financial aid dollars. If you determine that a college is gapping you, consider attending one of the other colleges that offered admission and a better financial aid package.
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