The Ivy Coach Daily

April 22, 2011

Help in Applying to College

Colleges aren’t always transparent about their need-blind and need-aware admissions policies.

A “Wall Street Journal” article entitled “Buying Your Way Into College” discusses how by not applying for financial aid can be the difference between a college admission and a college denial. While most applicants and their parents think that all colleges have need-blind admissions policies, the truth is that they don’t. They never did. Some universities do have need-blind admissions policies and have had such policies for several years. Yet still other colleges claim to have need-blind admissions policies when the facts speak otherwise. It’s a terribly kept dirty little secret, a hidden agenda, within the college admissions community that those students who need financial help in applying to college may be at a distinct disadvantage with regard to their admissions decisions.

Students who don’t need financial help in applying to college (if they may be able to cover the cost of tuition, room and board without any help) shouldn’t risk checking off the box that they need financial aid on the application. By doing so, this could well cost them their chance of admission to that university! But if you definitely need the aid, then you no choice but to check the box since you can’t ask for aid after you’ve been admitted. On the other hand, if you’re just checking that box because you think there is a slight possibility that you could get some small amount of aid or because you just want to give it a shot, don’t do it! It’s a huge mistake that too many college applicants make. The bottom line is that colleges want full-pays. At the end of the day, college admissions is a business and while recruiting and admitting underrepresented minorities who need aid is a core component of that business, colleges still need to enroll students who can pay the full fare. It’s a question of simple economics.

According to the “Wall Street Journal” article (and it should be pointed out that even this article doesn’t give the full story on the universities that claim to be need blind but are really need aware…or even blatantly need aware): “Thanks to the recent recession, more colleges are giving seats to wealthier students—especially international or wait-listed applicants—who are willing to pay full freight. Last fall, Williams College began admitting more international students who could pay full tuition, and will reintroduce loans into its financial-aid packages this year. Middlebury College and Wake Forest University began looking at wait-listed students’ financial status as a factor in admissions last year. And Tufts University, which was able to admit all students on a ’need-blind’ basis—where they pledge to admit students regardless of their ability to pay—in 2007 and 2008, has reverted to being “need-aware” for some applicants—meaning that it takes an applicant’s financial status into account.”

In tough economic times and with college endowments not what they once were, colleges often have no choice but to take into consideration the need for financial help in applying to college. Some colleges, however, claim to be need-blind until they have reached their budget at which point they claim to be need-aware. When they are need-aware, waitlist, transfer, and international applicants who can pay the full fare have the advantage over their fellow applicants who need financial aid. According to the “Wall Street Journal” article, “Middlebury, which is need-blind for U.S. students, says it will make its first-round decisions for all applicants based on merit alone. If the school is within budget, then it will leave those decisions alone. If not, then it may consider the financial status of wait-list, transfer and international applications, says Robert Clagett, dean of admissions at Middlebury. ’Being need-aware usually only influences those decisions at the margins,” he says. ’It depends on what resources are left.’”

Check out Jane J. Kim’s “Wall Street Journal” article here.

And check out our newsletter: Need-Blind Admissions – Does It Really Exist? and Brown University Recruits.

You are permitted to use (including the content of the Blog) for your personal, non-commercial use only. You must not copy, download, print, or otherwise distribute the content on our site without the prior written consent of Ivy Coach, Inc.


If you’re interested in Ivy Coach’s college counseling,
fill out our complimentary consultation form and we’ll be in touch.

Get Started