2 Reasons Why Need Blind Admissions Is A Farce

Need Blind Admissions, Need Blind Policy, Need Blind College Admissions Policy

Need blind admissions, like Santa Claus, is a myth.

The Need Blind Admissions Lie

Were you told that a college to which you’ll be applying has a need blind admissions policy? That is, the college touted — maybe at an information session or during a tour — how they don’t factor in your family’s ability to pay the full cost of tuition when deciding upon whether or not to offer you admission? If so, it’s important that you know you’ve been told an untruth. A cold, hard untruth. Colleges are not need blind as they may suggest so freely to applicants and their parents. Now there are a couple schools that are straightforward — they’re open and honest about being need aware. But all of those colleges that claim to be need blind, they too are need aware. They’re just not as honest about it.

And, yes, we can hear your wheels turning. Maybe you’re saying to yourself, “But that’s what the admissions officers told me. They told it to the whole roomful of students and parents.” Oh, we know. Admissions officers are human beings. They tell untruths, too. They’ve been telling this particular untruth for many years. Some admissions officers have been suggesting their school is need blind for so many years that maybe, just maybe, they’ve even started believing it. But we’ve hired enough former admissions officers at our nation’s most elite universities to know that most aren’t that susceptible to spin. Most knew well and good that their school wasn’t actually need blind — but they said an applicant’s ability to pay didn’t factor into the admissions equation anyway. After all, doing so was their job.

How to Know with Certainty Colleges Are Not Need Blind

But we know you’re still a bit skeptical. You’ve been to a number of information sessions. You’ve heard so many admissions officers claim their school was need blind. You want proof. Well, we’ll give you the proof

– If colleges were truly need blind, then why is there a question on just about every applicant’s supplement asking if the student needs financial aid — yes or no? Why wouldn’t this question be on a separate document that admissions officers aren’t privy to when evaluating an applicant’s file? Wouldn’t that be easy enough to fix?

– Colleges rely on tuition dollars. Not every college has an endowment the size of Harvard’s. In fact, no school has an endowment the size of Harvard’s. And no school — not even Harvard — wishes to dip into their endowment to fund students’ educations. They want to invest their endowments so they’ll grow rather than shrink. Tuition dollars are essential to keeping colleges running. If a school admitted a class in which virtually everyone needed financial aid (which is a risk they’d be taking if they were truly need blind), they’d risk dipping into their endowment and becoming non-operational in time.

What You Can Do To Improve Your Case for Admission

Well, there are many things you can do to improve your case for admission to highly selective colleges but this particular post focuses on financial aid. So what can you do to improve your case for admission? Don’t apply for financial aid. Especially if you don’t really need it. Especially if you don’t even qualify for aid (which you can determine online through the Net Price Calculator). When our clients at Ivy Coach ask us about seeking financial aid, do you know the first words out of our mouths? It goes something like, “If you can afford our services, you can afford the full cost of tuition. Don’t apply for aid. It will significantly hurt your child’s case for admission. Financial aid is for students who absolutely need the money to subsidize their college educations.”

Have a question about need blind admissions and why we assert it’s a farce? Or maybe you have a question about need aware admissions? Let us know your question by posting it below. We look forward to hearing from you.


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  • Vince says:

    Makes sense…. Question though…

    If parent will look to get PLUS Loan, and not looking for tuition discount from the school, does that still require checking the box on supplement as planning to applying for financial aid ?

  • Charles says:

    I had a financial adviser check with a non-ivy top 25 school as to whether they were truly need blind. This was somebody that used to work in admissions at that school and goes to church with the adviser. She said I can absolutely confirm that School X is need blind and applying for financial aid will not hurt admissions. Adviser said we may qualify even though our Household income is high and have assets (most are in retirement accounts).

    • Ivy Coach says:

      Because admissions officers always tell it like it is. Oh Charles!

    • kck says:

      Look at the average family incomes of that school vs. the average income at your nearest public college. You can do that by googling “Average Family Income School Name”. The NYT has a page for every major college and university. Those admissions offices know how to get those numbers where they need to be. Brown and Dartmouth have a higher than 200K average family income for their student bodies. Colgate’s average family income is 270K.

  • John says:

    I wish I had read this before I applied for financial aid over the weekend. UGH! I definitely don’t qualify but was told to do it anyway. I have twins – one applying ivy and the other a top private school. Is there anything I can do to mitigate the potential impact on my child’s admission prospects? Thanks

  • jennifer Shields says:

    Yes, agree with John above, also just submitted FAFSA. Once you received your SAR report, meaning your app has been processed, is it possible to withdraw your FAFSA from certain schools? And if so, would that then look more strange than just taking your chances at this point? Thanks!

  • Marie says:

    Great article and website. I wish I had read this and come across your website/company before my son applied to Duke. His high school told him that he had a better ED application than the two previous applicants that were currently students at Duke (that had also applied ED, but were full pays). He applied ED and was rejected, totally crushed. We shouldn’t have applied for financial aid.

  • dpsweeper says:

    Oh no, not rich folk crying that they make too much money!

  • DJC says:

    Claiming that 100% of all schools are lying when they say they are need blind is a big, bold and impossible to prove claim. I have put 4 into “Need Based / Need Blind” schools (schools that are supposed to be committed to a no loan policy) and can confirm that indeed nearly all are lying….but I would not say that none walk the walk. I would even go so far as to say that a few are need blind, at least for a large portion of their application process. It’s true that they could potentially start to lose money if they accepted too many needy students, but these schools all have years of statistics to aid them. They know how many they can take “blindly” and they also know how many “Full Paying” students they need to turn a profit. I say all of this because there is a school or two that deserve some credit for their efforts…top of the list would be Davidson College in Davidson NC…another, Case Western Reserve in Cleveland OH, UNC Chapel Hill is also a candidate for an altruistic admissions process, again, at least for a portion (maybe even all) of the application cycle.

    • Ivy Coach says:

      We believe the onus is on them. If they purport to be telling the truth, then they’d delete the question on their supplements that asks students if they’re applying for financial aid. Admissions officers should not be privy to that answer if they’re truly “need-blind.” Also, we have long asserted that Harvard tells the truth about its financial aid policy due to the sheer size of its endowment. But, yes, most colleges are lying through their teeth.

  • Mark says:

    Prominent East Coast liberal arts college Admissions Officer claims their college to be “need blind” in a recent information session. The next sentence is that “50% of our students receive financial aid”. To receive aid from this school, based on their online aid calculator with one child in college, one must earn under about $375,000 per year which is the 2.5%ile based on 2021 US income statistics. So they are telling you that we do not look at need for admissions, but somehow, miraculously, half of our students come from the top 2.5% of income earning households! Wondering if the math professors at these schools could help the admissions office with their statistics?

    They publish the number of ADMITTED students who applied for financial aid on the DCS, but not the number of APPLICANTS who applied for aid. If the applicant pool is not made up of 50% people who do not need aid, then the admissions process is clearly not need blind. When I asked what percentage of applicants requested financial aid, the Officer politely declined to answer stating that he is “blind” to that information.

    It is easy to imagine that a disproportionate percentage of applicants to these schools are able to pay full tuition relative to the general public, but hard to imagine that it is 50%. I applaud efforts to include more academically qualified low-income students. I do not appreciate the intellectual dishonesty in the “need blind” statement, however.

    In addition to asking on the application if you want aid yes/no, they ask parents’ education level, occupation, and they have your Zip code. This information combined with where the applicant went to high school is plenty to not be “blind”.

    If you send your child to an expensive college and pay full tuition you are paying for her and another student, too. My issue is that the school takes credit for it as if they are the hero.

  • grumbling in Minnesota says:

    Jeffrey Salingo’s book “Who Gets in and Why” spells this out pretty clearly—-he asserts that at some point in the process, most colleges, including those that claim to be “need blind” are indeed “shaping” the class to insure that they have enough students paying full freight. We are going through college applications now with our second child. With our first child, we were clueless about the impact of checking that one little box that says, “Applying for Financial Aid?” To be clear, that is only ONE of many “boxes” that colleges are seeking to check off as they assemble the next class of students. But this time around, given what we have learned, we decided to say “No” to financial aid for the reasons given by Ivy Coach. We learned the hard way with the first child that even though $70,000 per year didn’t and doesn’t sound like anything close to what we can afford, we won’t get any financial aid nonetheless, so why take that ding on our daughter’s chances.

    I do have a follow up question, though. If applying to a school that does give MERIT awards, does checking “no” on the financial aid question disqualify your child from receiving merit scholarships too? I read that to get merit scholarships at many schools, one must complete the FAFSA too.

    Grumble, grumble.

  • Joan says:

    I’m an international student and I actually need financial aid, I’m applying to Ivy schools and I really don’t know what to do. Please help.

  • Michael says:

    I marked “No” for financial aid for my HYMPS applications. But foolishly, my parents sent the FAFSA to these schools. The FAFSA reveals that I would probably be eligible for need based aid of around $20K per year while my older sibling is still in college (next two years). I wont be filing any further financial aid docs, but will these schools use my FAFSA info against me and lower my already low chances of getting in? Any advice is appreciated!

    I am hoping they will they simply ignore the FAFSA since I marked “No” for Financial aid. I am really okay with receiving no financial aid, my parents said they will make it work, especially because one of my parents will have an increased income next year.

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