You’ve likely been told over and over again how important your grades, test scores, volunteer activities, and essay answers are to your college admission chances. But, did you know that your family’s finances might play a role as well? So, how does that affect your admission chances and what do you need to know?
First of all, let’s just acknowledge that you can’t change your family’s financial status. So, no worrying about that. What you want to focus on is what the admissions office might be looking at.
A college is need-blind if it does not consider a family’s finances when deciding to admit a student. (They won’t be looking at your FAFSA or ask you for any financial information when they make their decision.) Otherwise, the college is need-sensitive or need-aware — meaning they take your financial status into account when they decide whether or not to admit you.
Here’s the potential good news about need-blind schools: Need-blind schools often provide significant financial aid to students with “demonstrated financial need,” as determined by the FAFSA and other financial aid applications. (Some of them even meet 100% of “demonstrated financial need,” which can be a significant bonus if finances are a big part of your college enrollment decision.)
Just remember this: even if a school meets 100% of your “demonstrated financial need,” this doesn’t mean you get to attend for free. It just means that the school has put together a financial aid package that covers 100% of your need. This package could include gift aid (like grants and scholarships), as well as work-study and student loans that you will have to pay back.
There are about 100 colleges that claim to have a need-blind admissions policy. About a third offer need-blind admissions to international students and four-fifths to transfer students.
Check your financial aid award carefully if you’re accepted. About a third of these schools will leave students with unmet need: You might get admitted, but you won’t have the financial aid you need to enroll. (This is called an “admit-deny” situation.)
Even if a college is need-blind, that policy can change to need-sensitive when it comes to the wait list. This means that most schools will consider financial status when deciding to admit students on the wait list. Only five colleges say that they are need-blind for wait-listed students: Amherst, Babson, Bard, Baylor, and Wellesley.)
The potential good news about need-sensitive schools: They might be actively seeking a broad demographic mix of students. They sometimes have specific programs to help low-income students get into school, pay for school, and be successful while in school.
This can also be good news if you are an “average” student who comes from a high-income family. The school might just give you the admission and, sometimes, a merit award eligibility edge knowing you’ll be paying more tuition dollars (and probably alumni donation dollars as well).
Curious about need-blind schools? This list of need-blind colleges and universities was compiled as of Fall 2015 through a review of college financial aid office websites and follow-up telephone calls. When the college’s policy was unable to be determined, it is marked with a “?” You should contact the colleges you are considering for the most current policy.
|Name of School||Need-Blind
|California Institute of Technology||Yes||No||Yes|
|Cal Poly San Luis Obispo||Yes||No||Yes|
|Carnegie Mellon University||Yes||No||Yes|
|Claremont McKenna College||Yes||No||Yes|
|Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Florida State University||Yes||No||Yes|
|Harvard Business School||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Harvey Mudd College||Yes||No||Yes|
|Jewish Theological Seminary||Yes||?||Yes|
|Johns Hopkins University||Yes||No|
|Lewis & Clark College||Yes||No||Yes|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Mount St. Mary’s College||Yes||No||No|
|North Carolina State University (NCSU)||Yes||No||Yes|
|New York University (NYU)||Yes||No||Yes|
|North Central College||Yes||No||Yes|
|Olin College of Engineering||Yes||No||Yes|
|San Jose State University (SJSU)||Yes||No||Yes|
|Semester at Sea||Yes||Yes||NA|
|Soka University of America||Yes||?||Yes|
|St. John’s College||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|St. Olaf College||Yes||No||?|
|State University of New York (SUNY) College of Environmental Science and Forestry||Yes||No||Yes|
|The College of New Jersey (TCNJ)||Yes||No||Yes|
|Thomas Aquinas College||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|University of Chicago||Yes||No||Yes|
|University of Illinois at Chicago||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business||Yes||?||Yes|
|University of Miami||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|University of New Hampshire||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|University of North Carolina||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|University of Notre Dame||Yes||No||Yes|
|University of Pennsylvania||Yes||No||Yes|
|University of Richmond||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|University of Rochester||Yes||No|
|University of Southern California (USC)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|University of Vermont||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|University of Virginia||Yes||No||Yes|
|University of Washington||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Wake Forest School of Medicine||Yes||No||NA|
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