Should I apply to colleges I don’t think I can afford?
No–with a big assumption. The assumption is that you already know approximately how much you can afford and how much financial aid a college is likely to give you. That means that you have already used a calculator such as the FAFS4caster to estimate your expected family contribution (EFC) and the college’s net price calculator.
Searching for merit money could be a reason to apply to colleges that are otherwise unaffordable.
There is a situation where you might apply to colleges that you don’t think you can afford. These are lessor known colleges where your test scores put you in the top 25% of applicants and makes you a candidate for substantial merit money.
But you have to stand firm. Don’t fall in love with a school you can’t afford.
However, this still requires that you have firmly established what you can afford and be willing to turn down those schools that don’t become affordable even after merit money is awarded. Definitely, do not fall in love with a school you if you don’t know you can afford it.