Need-blind admission

Need-blind admission is a term in the U.S. denoting a college admission policy in which the admitting institution claims not to consider an applicant's financial situation when deciding admission. Generally, an increase in students admitted under a need-blind policy and needing financial aid requires the institution to back the policy with an ample endowment or source of funding.

Need-blind admissions systems are rare. Most universities cannot offer it and not all that do offer it to all students; many schools offer need-blind admission to American first-year students but not to internationals or to transfer students.

Skeptics point to the consistent number of people accepted with aid at many need-blind schools, claiming that although the school calls itself "need-blind," the number of students receiving aid remains the same each year, leading them to believe that the school has limited aid to give.

Need-blind admission does not necessarily mean a "full-need" financial aid policy--where the school agrees to fund the meet the full demonstrated financial need of all its admitted students. Indeed, the two policies can be in tension because need-blind admissions and full-need financial aid together commit the school to spend an undetermined amount of money regardless of other budgetary constraints. Thus, some need-blind schools will admit students who will nonetheless not be able to attend because of deficient financial aid awards.

There are only eight colleges that are need-blind and full-need for all applicants, including international students. These are Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Middlebury College, MIT, Princeton University, Williams College, Yale University, and Amherst College.

Colleges that are need-blind and full-need for U.S. students

A number of schools state they offer both need-blind admissions and full-need for U.S. students. However, experts speculate the actual number is much lower--perhaps about eight to twelve schools nationwide.

The following schools state they are need-blind and full-need:

Other schools

Some schools, including Bard College, have a need-blind admissions policy, but do not guarantee to meet the full demonstrated financial need of the students it admits. Still more schools, like Tufts University, are actively pursuing a need-blind admissions policy but have not yet had the resources to fully implement it.

Need-sensitive institutions

Many reputable US institutions that once championed "need-blind" policies in the past have modified their policies due to rising tuition and financial aid costs, as well as less-than-ideal returns on endowments. This largely affects prestigious institutions with vulnerable resources that do not offer merit-based aid but base their financial aid entirely on need and promise to deliver 100% of financial need (composed mostly of grants). These stated institutions refer to themselves as "need-aware" or "need-sensitive," policies that somewhat contradict their call to admit and provide education for all qualified candidates regardless of economic status but allow them to fully fund the needs of all accepted students.

For instance, at Hamilton College, Macalester College, Mount Holyoke College and Smith College, at least 95% of students are admitted without their financial aid need being a factor (i.e., 'need-blind), but a slim percentage (1%–5%), generally students wait-listed or with borderline qualifications, are reviewed in modest consideration of the college's projected financial resources. All of these aforementioned colleges grant all acceptees full financial aid packages meeting 100% need.


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