What Does “Need-Blind” Actually Mean?
Did you know that financial need can affect your chance of admission?
If you’ve started your college search process, you know that financial aid options for international students are extremely limited. If you don’t know already, international students are not eligible for Federal Financial Aid (provided through the US government). However, there are a few need-blind colleges in the US that offer financial aid to students applying from outside the US, in some cases meeting up to 100% of demonstrated need. You might have heard the term “need blind” but what does it actually mean? Understanding this concept can help you prioritize your college list as you find and evaluate universities.
Colleges in the US adopt various admission policies when evaluating prospective student applications. When it comes to financial aid, most colleges prefer to remain need-aware, while a select handful claim to be need-blind. Colleges that are “need-aware” consider your ability to pay as part of their admissions decision. For international students, the list of truly need-blind colleges is significantly shorter; less than 10 colleges in the US offer a need-blind admissions process for prospective students applying from outside the US.
So what exactly does “need-blind” mean?
When a US college claims that it is “need-blind”, the college is referring to its admission policy and process. Need-blind colleges do not evaluate a prospective student’s financial situation as part of their admissions decision. This means that while reviewing your application, colleges will look at your essays, academic scores, extracurricular activities, past work experiences, etc. - everything except your financial situation and status. It does not matter whether or not you applied for financial aid at that college - it won’t be evaluated until after you’re admitted.
Need-Blind College List (updated for Feb 2022)
We’ve compiled a list of US colleges that are need-blind for international students - click the button below to download a free copy!
Are they “really” need-blind?
Rightly so, international students have a deep-rooted fear that applying for financial aid lowers their chances of getting into college. Colleges that are truly need-blind are also some of the most competitive in terms of admissions. The good news is that if a college claims that it is need-blind (and colleges that claim that they are need-blind will make it clear that they are need-blind), the US Congress has laid out certain laws to ensure that colleges adhere to this process. You can find this information by reading the guidelines that are available on a college’s financial aid policy website. If you have any doubts, you should email the college’s admissions office as policies do change from year to year.
Is there a catch?
Before you get your hopes up, you must understand that less than 10 colleges in the US offer a need-blind admissions policy. Within that list, there are only a few that meet 100% of full demonstrated need. Some need-blind colleges only meet a portion of your demonstrated need and there are no policies or laws that require them to meet 100% of demonstrated need.
Regardless, if you applied for financial aid and are admitted into a need-blind college, you can still have none, some, or all of your demonstrated-need met by the college.
So if I can’t afford the education, my options of studying at a US college are minimal?
That’s not necessarily true. US higher education is expensive for most international students, but there are thousands of need-aware colleges that can also offer financial incentives / scholarships to you even if your ability to pay is a factor in determining admissions. While most colleges have a slight preference for students who meet the financial requirements, some of them still offer financial aid to prospective international students through various scholarships.