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Need-Blind Colleges & Need-Blind Admissions

rolled up money with an X over it to signify not needing to pay for college.

Applying to college is not for the faint of heart. Years ago, when my husband applied to college, he completed a one-page application and was automatically admitted. Today, there are numerous forms to complete and additional components to submit with the application. Then, you have to consider the cost, which, for many families, can be a critical factor in deciding which college to attend.

You may not know this, but apart from the merits of your application, some colleges consider your family's ability to pay. The colleges will use that information as part of their admission decision. One of the colleges my daughter applied to had this policy, and even though they offered her admission, they did not provide any form of financial aid other than loans. This, of course, made this college unaffordable.

Thankfully, many colleges and universities are transitioning to need-blind admissions policies, removing the ability to pay from the admissions decision.

What is need-blind admission?

A college or university that claims to have a need-blind admission policy communicates that your ability to pay for your education will not be considered when offering admission. It does not mean they will meet 100% of your financial need, but they won't deny you admission because you can't afford to pay. In other words, you will be admitted or rejected solely on the merit of your application—not on your ability or inability to pay.

How does need-blind admission work?

When you apply to a need-blind college, the admission decision is based on the strength of your academics, test scores, extracurriculars, essays, letters of recommendation, and other merit-based criteria. If you are admitted, the college may then review your financial aid application (the FAFSA) and award financial assistance in the form of need-based grants and scholarships and/or work-study.

What types of financial aid can you expect from a need-blind school?

In general, need-blind colleges fall into one of these three categories when it comes to financial aid:

  1. Full need, no loans—These schools promise to cover the cost of college with financial aid that does not include student loans. This means they will cover a student's "demonstrated financial need," referring to the difference between what you can pay (your EFC or your SAI on the new FAFSA) and the cost of tuition.
  2. Full need, with loans—These schools guarantee to cover 100% of your demonstrated financial need through their financial aid package. The difference is this package also includes student loans.
  3. No guaranteed financial aid—These schools have a need-blind admission policy but do not guarantee financial aid to cover your demonstrated need. This will leave a gap that a student will have to pay if they accept the offer of admission.

These are the three most common need-blind policies. If you are applying to a need-blind school, they may have a policy that differs from these three. Check with your school's admissions office for questions about their policy.

What's the difference between need-blind and need-aware?

Many colleges claimed in the past to have a need-blind admission policy, but this is not entirely accurate. With these colleges that claim a need-blind policy, admissions officials do not consider financial need during the first round of reading applications. Then, before applicants are notified, the college examines its financial aid budget and makes a determination at that point which students it can afford to admit.

In this case, the college would be classified as need-aware. They consider the student's ability to pay before offering admission because they have a limited amount of money they can use for financial aid. An actual need-blind college will not consider a student's ability to pay at any step of the admission process.

Why are need-blind admissions policies important?

Need-blind admissions can help give talented students with limited financial means access to college. This increases overall diversity on campus. Studies show that economic diversity enhances learning, exposing students to peers from different backgrounds and experiences. The overall premise is that students who may not be able to afford an expensive education should still be afforded the opportunity to attend.

What does a need-blind policy fail to address?

There are skeptics who question whether any college or university has a true need-blind policy. The student's application often provides details that hint at their economic status and can affect an admissions officer's decision, especially if the college has limited funds to supplement financial aid packages. Even though they may not communicate with financial aid, they know the school's financial constraints.

Additionally, the policy does not address the unfair advantage wealthy students have to pay for college counseling, test prep tutoring, extracurriculars that cost their family money to participate, and other opportunities that make the student a desirable candidate. Low-income students are less likely to have access to these resources and opportunities.

Need-blind colleges: a 2023 list 

Even if a college offers need-blind admissions and meets the full demonstrated financial need, a student might have loans as part of the package of financial assistance. Some colleges meet financial need with student loans. Luckily, about two-thirds of the colleges that are need-blind and meet full need have generous "no loans" financial aid policies.

The following is a list of all colleges that offer need-blind admission for U.S. applicants. The colleges that also meet the full demonstrated financial need are listed in bold

  • Adrian College
  • Amherst College
  • Antioch College
  • Babson College
  • Barnard College
  • Baylor University
  • Berea College
  • Biola University
  • Boston College
  • Boston University
  • Bowdoin College
  • Brandeis University
  • Brown University
  • Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Chapman University
  • Claremont McKenna College
  • Colby College
  • Colgate University
  • College of the Ozarks
  • College of William and Mary
  • Columbia University
  • Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
  • Cornell College
  • Cornell University
  • Curtis Institute of Music
  • Dartmouth College
  • Davidson College
  • Denison University
  • DePaul University
  • Duke University
  • Elon University
  • Emory University
  • Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU)
  • Florida State University
  • Fordham University
  • Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
  • Georgetown University
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Grinnell College
  • Hamilton College
  • Harvard University
  • Harvey Mudd College
  • Haverford College
  • Hiram College
  • Ithaca College
  • Jewish Theological Seminary
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Julliard
  • Kenyon College
  • Lafayette College
  • Lawrence University
  • Lehigh University
  • Lewis & Clark College
  • Marist College
  • Marlboro College
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • Middlebury College
  • Mills College
  • Mount St. Mary's College
  • New York University (NYU)
  • North Carolina State University (NCSU)
  • North Central College
  • Northeastern University
  • Northwestern University
  • Olin College
  • Penn State
  • Pomona College
  • Princeton University
  • Providence College
  • Randolph College
  • Rice University
  • Salem College
  • Saint Louis University
  • San Jose State University (SJSU)
  • Santa Clara University
  • Soka University of America
  • Southern Methodist University (SMU)
  • St. John's College
  • St. Olaf College
  • Stanford University
  • SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
  • Swarthmore College
  • Syracuse University
  • The College of New Jersey (TCNJ)
  • Thomas Aquinas College
  • Trinity University
  • Tufts University
  • Tulane University
  • University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA)
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Florida
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • University of Miami
  • University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
  • University of New Hampshire
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Richmond
  • University of Rochester
  • University of Southern California (USC)
  • University of Vermont
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Washington
  • Ursuline College
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Vassar College
  • Wabash College
  • Wellesley College
  • Wesleyan University
  • Williams College
  • Yale University
  • Yeshiva University

What are full-need colleges? 

We mentioned colleges that meet the demonstrated financial need of their students above. In case you're not familiar with this concept, these colleges are committed to ensuring that students who are admitted can afford to attend, regardless of their family's financial circumstances.

If a student is accepted to a full-need college, and their family can't afford the full tuition and other expenses, the college will provide financial aid packages that cover the remaining cost.

How to find the right college for your financial situation

Now that you know about need-blind colleges and how need-blind admissions work, you might be ready to start building your college list. The easiest way is to use Appily's college database to save and compare essential details for each school you're interested in.

You can see acceptance rates, average financial aid awards, application deadlines, and more. Click the button below to access this critical information to make confident college decisions. 

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