“Need-blind" admissions. We have often seen these three words pop up frequently in college information websites, chat rooms, promotional articles about college access, and discussions about college destinations (especially from annoying counselors). When you read these words, you feel "all is good and right about admissions.” But do we know what these words mean?
By definition, if a college has a need-blind admissions policy, then applicants’ financial resources have no impact on their acceptance or rejection. It’s commonly assumed that schools favor students who can afford college tuition without recourse to financial aid. Need-blind admission was instituted (at least in part) to refute that belief. Students would be considered without regard for a family's financial circumstances. Colleges that claim "need-blind" status seem to be saying, "We look at the academic record, not the bank record, in evaluating candidates."
In the US, only six colleges and universities extend need-blind admission to international applicants. That’s less than 1% of America’s higher education institutions, but the good news is, these eight are also among America’s most elite:
- Harvard University
- Princeton University
- Yale University
- Dartmouth College
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Amherst College
Is something fishy, eh? The correlation is not accidental. Need-blind admission is possible only when an institution is well funded enough to support it.
But the bad news is that need-blind admission is rarely offered to international students. Why? Well, part of the reason is simple math: the majority of applicants are U.S citizens, so they’re typically the prime beneficiaries of college funding.
More complicated factors – endowments, operating budgets, tax regulations – restrict the number and kinds of students eligible for need-blind review.
Some schools offer need-sensitive admission for international students. This means that applicants are accepted blindly until the school meets its budget, at which time the remaining applicants are evaluated with financial aid in mind. Examples of institutions practicing need-sensitive admission include:
- Bucknell University
- Brandeis University
- Brown University
- Columbia University
- Cornell University (As of July 2009, Cornell University states they need blind international students, but I’m not sure of this information.)
- Northwestern University
- Stanford University
- Wellesley College
But hey, if your college or university doesn’t offer need-blind admission, and you require financial assistance, don’t worry. Most schools still base admission on grades, transcripts, essays, and letters of recommendation.
Besides, be sure to search for organizations and foundations that offer scholarships specifically for international students. The international student services office at the school where you are applying may even provide you with a directory of such sources. Before you use with any university, inquire about its admissions policy. Talk to someone directly, and ask lots and lots of questions. Take control of your education!
What Should You Look for in a Need-Blind College?
Let’s look into the three things you should look for when considering a need-blind college.
#1: The School Is the Right Fit for You
Need-blind colleges are top institutions that often offer charitable financial packages to qualified students. But you must choose a school that's a good fit for you. A need-blind college might sound great on paper, but if it does not offer the major or opportunity you have your heart set on, it is better to apply to other institutions.
#2: Go Through the School's Financial Need Calculator
This tuition calculator will clarify what you will have to pay out of pocket to attend, but it will not predict your potential financial aid package’s exact amount.
You must use the tuition calculator for each university to plan your financial need. Your FAFSA will give you a general idea of your financial contribution, but many institutions, especially elite institutions—will use their established formula to calculate your illustrated financial need. The only way to get an accurate idea is to type your numbers into each calculator and see what comes out.
#3: Don't Let the Potential Aid Package Retain You From Applying to Your Dream School
Always remember your FAFSA and a tuition calculator do not make a financial aid package! Don't get confused if the number the forms spit out is higher than you can pay. Universities look at student need on a case-by-case basis, so your financial aid package might be more reasonable than you would think! Also, keep in mind that the calculators don't account for outside scholarship money, so additional awards can help bring down costs.
In What Ways Need-Blind Policies Affect Tuition Costs?
There is a common misunderstanding that need-blind schools also offer students who cannot pay an entire ride. That is false: just because a university is need-blind does not mean that tuition is free! In simple words, just because you get into a need-blind college does not mean you are guaranteed a free ride.
For example, take a look at Brown University's need-blind admissions policy. It starts like this:
In simple words, Need-blind admission means that an applicant's ability to pay for their education will not be a factor in the admission decision. A candidate's financial need will not be considered when deciding to admit, waitlist, or deny an applicant.
Sounds pretty good, right? Just like any need-blind school, Brown does not consider a student's ability to pay when deciding whether to admit them or not.
But you cannot stop here. It also explains how this affects Brown's financial obligations to admitted students and vice versa. The rest of the policy says:
Need-blind admission does not require that an applicant with demonstrated financial need be awarded financial aid, nor does it require that 100% of the applicant's explained market to be met.
Okay, let's look into the second statement down. Brown is saying that although they don't look at finances to determine whether to grant a student admission, the school doesn't guarantee that anyone—including lower-income students—will be awarded financial aid. That means you can still cover your tuition costs through grants, scholarships, and loans.
The truth is that most need-blind schools are also top institutions that will offer a financial aid package to students who show need. But that isn't guaranteed to fund. So be aware that you might have to pay some of your tuition out of pocket even if you are accepted into a need-blind university.
The idea behind need-blind admissions is that it focuses on merit rather than financial status. This is a great thing, but it also makes getting admitted a little more competitive. Get the inside scoop on the people who will be reading your scholarship application process.
Regardless of whether your top university is on the need-blind admissions list, most students need to know how much financial aid they qualify for before committing to a school.