Friday, November 14, 2008

What does Need-Blind Mean

My husband who has hardly a clue about the ins and outs of the US college application process recently asked me about the significance of need blind colleges, since this is a real factor that was taken into consideration by my son in deciding which schools to select.

Need blind merely means that the college does not take into consideration the financial circumstances of the applicant when they are assessing his application and determining whether to accept or reject same. When you hear such a definition then the assumption is, well if these colleges aren’t turned off by considerations of financial standing then they must be sufficiently well endowed to facilitate the attendance of students who are in need. There are in fact a fair amount of need blind colleges in the United States, some of these are:

Amherst College

Middlebury College

Boston College

Brown University

Northwestern University

Rice University

Claremont McKenna College

Pomona College

Columbia University

University of Chicago

Princeton University

University of Notre Dame

Dartmouth College

Swarthmore College

University of Rochester

Davidson College

University of Pennsylvania

Duke University

University of Rochester

Emory University

Vanderbilt University

Georgetown University

Wake Forest University

Grinnell College

Harvard University

Haverford College

Wesleyan University

Mass. Institute of Technology

Williams College

Yale University

Among these though, only those highlighted in red are need blind in relation to international students. A few of them, namely Amherst and Dartmouth only came on board a year or so ago. When my son went to a college fair last year, he said that the Dartmouth rep was very enthusiastic about selling this new financial aid initiative adopted by the college. The colleges which do this view the extension of this support as a means to enhance diversity at their college and to enrich the school's academic, social and cultural environment. It is almost trite to make the point that this is a costly endeavour. The high cost of college tuition is so well known; just take a look at some of these '08-'09 figures:

• Yale - $35,300.00 ,
• MIT - $36,140.00
• Dartmouth - $36,915.00
• Princeton - $$35,440.00 .

Oh if you could Go to College Almost for Free!

It is important to note that this does not cover room and board which can climb up to $11,000.00. Consequently international students who hope to take advantage of the opportunity offered by these schools should prepare themselves in terms of their academics, extra curricular activities and reputation in high school. They will need to convince admission officials they are worth it. Remember the common application form does in fact contain a section for the applicant to state whether they will be applying for need-based financial aid, so admission officials do have that information at hand. So although school policy states, sometimes emphatically, that financial need is not a factor affecting admission one cannot know for sure whether in the final analysis the subconscious is at work, especially under current harsh financial conditions, and puts its ghostly hand of rejection on your application.

Despite the “blind” perspective taken by these colleges it would be absurd to think that they’d be willing to assist an international student who is in need but who does not demonstrate the ability to manage the course load and college lifestyle and give something beneficial back to the school. The need blind colleges are few so competition is fierce. Make yourself standout so that the officials will “see” you in more than financial terms or at least as a huge return on their investment.

Another point of note is that colleges which are not need blind to foreign applicants - the appropriate phrase is "need aware" - such as Columbia and Stanford, will offer need based aid once they accept the applicant. Columbia's website states:
"if you are admitted then we will meet 100% of your demonstrated financial need."

That "once you are admitted" is the clincher though. So financial need is considered in determining whether to admit; but once they admit, your financial needs are addressed. It's clear therefore that at need aware schools, you have got to be an outstanding applicant to surmount the hurdle of being needy.

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