Wash U Needs to Show Not Tell

Wash U needs to heed the advice of Teddy Roosevelt: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

A few days ago, Washington University in St. Louis announced to much fanfare that the school would be going “need-blind” in admissions. This means that the school’s admissions committee is professing that an applicant’s ability to pay will not be a consideration in admissions decision-making going forward. But as loyal readers of our college admissions blog know all too well, we don’t believe most schools are being truthful about their “need-blind” admissions policies. Rather, we believe the vast majority of these schools are need-aware. After all, if they were truly need-blind, they 1.) wouldn’t ask directly on their supplement — which admissions officers can read with their own two eyes when weighing a student’s case for admission if a student needs financial aid and 2.) would risk admitting a class in which just about everyone needed financial aid, which would require them to dip significantly into their endowments, something they’re loathe to do.

The fact is that days after Wash U has made this grand announcement that they’ve gone “need-blind,” the Wash U admissions committee still directly asks on the supplement: “Are you applying for need-based financial aid? Select “Yes” if you will need financial aid to attend Washington University. We will share this information with our office of Student Financial Services so they can send you helpful tips about applying for financial aid and remind you of key deadlines. We meet 100 percent of demonstrated need for admitted students, so be sure to apply for aid by the deadline.” If Wash U is sharing this information with their office of Student Financial Services but not the admissions committee, then why does this prompt appear on the PDF of the Wash U supplement? Why can admissions officers see the answer? Shouldn’t only Wash U’s office of Student Financial Services see the answer? Doesn’t that seem logical? Shouldn’t Wash U show they’re truly need-blind rather than just tell? And let’s be real: a promise to meet 100% of demonstrated need for admitted students isn’t the same as being blind to one’s ability to pay in admissions decision-making. Quite simply, how many deserving students won’t be among these admitted students because they check yes to this prompt?

This prompt currently appears on the Wash U supplement to The Common Application. Does it not say everything you need to know about Wash U’s new “need-blind” admissions policy?

In a recent Tweet, we congratulated Wash U on their recent announcement about going “need-blind.” In that same congratulatory Tweet, we wrote, “But until they take the financial aid question off the very application Wash U admissions officers can see with their own two eyes, it’s a whole lot of fuss about nothing. Show don’t tell!” Wash U’s admissions committee initially clicked “like” on our Tweet, only to later unlike the Tweet — likely once they realized we were calling them on their lack of transparency, not simply congratulating them on their grandiose announcement.

 
 

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