Need-blind Colleges in 2021

August 12, 2022
By AdmissionSight

Need-blind Colleges in 2021

What Is Need-Blind Admission?

The cost of tuition and student loans are increasing annually; the most recent class of 2015 graduates left the stage with a diploma and just under $35,000 in debt, which, at some of these institutions, is practically another semester’s tuition. It makes sense that financial aid and scholarships would rank highly on your list of factors to consider when choosing a college.

On the other hand, some colleges actually use financial need as one of the determining factors when determining whether to accept an applicant. The opposite scenario, in which colleges do not take an applicant’s financial need into account when making their admissions decision, answers the question “what is need-blind admission?”

Young woman smiling at the camera while in front of her laptop.

From there, though, things become even more complicated because some colleges are need-blind, but not for students from other countries. Others are aware of applicants’ financial needs but promise to cover all of them. Others are need-blind, but this does not ensure that every need will be satisfied.

What does all of this mean for you as a candidate, and what should you be on the lookout for? In order to give you a better understanding of how each institution distributes its funding to its students, we’ll define a few terms and address some frequently asked questions about financial aid and admissions in this section.

There are a few terms that we should define before we start discussing the need-blind colleges in 2021.

Financial need

In plain English, this is the amount of tuition that the school determines you (or your family) should be able to afford each year. Based on your or your family’s income and the amount of taxes you or they pay, this is determined.

Graduation hat with coins underneath it on a wooden table.

Need-aware admissions

When a college decides whether or not to accept you as an applicant, they take into account your or your family’s earning potential in relation to their tuition, housing, and food costs.

Need-blind admissions

When deciding whether or not to accept a student, a college that uses need-blind admissions separates the applicant’s academic performance, test results, and essays from the financial situation of their family. In many cases, these institutions won’t even calculate aid until after a student has been admitted.

Types of Need-Blind Admissions

In general, there are three types of need-blind admissions.

Admissions are based only on need with full documentation of financial need.

This is what most students mean when they use the term “need-blind” — the college will decide whether to admit you regardless of how much money you would need to contribute. Furthermore, if they do decide to accept you, they will provide you with all the financial aid you require as long as you decide to enroll in their university.

They don’t consider an applicant’s financial need when deciding whether or not to admit them, and international applicants will also receive all the aid they require. These colleges also don’t care if they are domestic or international students; everyone receives the same treatment.

Of course, there aren’t many colleges like this. Only five colleges in the country—Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, and Amherst—follow this rule, and they also happen to be five of the most selective.

Admissions for domestic students without regard to need plus satisfaction of all financial need.

These colleges function similarly to those previously mentioned, with the exception that international applicants will be evaluated on a need-aware basis, where the applicant’s entire profile—including their demonstrated financial need—is assessed based on how compatible it would be with the college’s offerings.

However, these colleges will give the applicants as much money as they require to attend the institution for the international students they do accept. Making this distinction is typically done for financial reasons, as many colleges that use this admissions method have lower endowments than the five colleges mentioned above.

The universities Brown, Columbia, Duke, and Stanford are just a few that use this strategy.

Domestic student admissions on the basis of need only when financial need is not fully demonstrated.

These colleges differ from the ones mentioned above in one very important way: they guarantee that they won’t consider a domestic applicant’s financial need when making an admissions decision, but they don’t guarantee that they will be able to provide a student with enough money to cover all of their financial needs.

When evaluating applications, they will also take into account the financial need of prospective international students, but they cannot guarantee that their demonstrated need will be met if they are accepted. Even though these institutions will make every effort to meet every accepted student’s financial needs, there may occasionally be a gap in the assistance they offer.

Colleges like Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, and New York University are among those that use this model to admit students.

What Colleges Are Need-Blind in 2021?

Did you know that some colleges and universities take into account the financial situation of your family when deciding whether to admit you? That implies that families who are unable to pay for tuition may suffer a setback.

The majority of colleges in the United States have need-blind admissions practices. When evaluating your application, they don’t take your financial situation into account. Admissions decisions at these institutions are based more on academic ability than economic status.

But what happens after you get a letter of acceptance? A much smaller number fully satisfies each student’s financial needs without the use of loans.

Let us check what colleges are need-blind in 2021 which provide 100% financial need-refilling aid through a combination of scholarships, grants, and work-study programs — no student loans.

1. Columbia University (New York, New York)

The number of undergraduate students is 8,148, and the average financial aid award for 2019–20 is $55,773.

Topping the list of need-blind colleges in 2021 is the renowned Ivy League school in Manhattan, Columbia, which uses need-blind admissions for first-year applicants, including some noncitizens and undocumented students. After deducting the anticipated family contribution, the university offers financial aid packages that meet each admitted student’s demonstrated need.

A parent or guardian contribution of less than $5,000 is made by about 40% of financial aid recipients, according to the school’s website. The university claims to give out more than $177 million in grants and scholarships each year. This includes the Columbia Grant, a kind of financial aid for accepted students based on need.

2. Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts)

There were 8,527 undergraduates as of the fall of 2020 and $55,389 is the average financial aid package for 2019–20.

Harvard, like Columbia, combines a need-blind admissions policy with 100% need-based financial aid and no loans. This means that your financial ability to attend Harvard is irrelevant to the admissions process. Note that Harvard only provides need-based aid; it does not provide any aid based on merit.

In total, about 1 in 5 Harvard families contribute nothing to the cost of education. The average parental or guardian contribution, according to the university, is $12,000. Some applicants may be put off by the sticker price, but many students at Harvard pay much less for an Ivy League education.

3. Amherst College (Amherst, Massachusetts)

One thousand seven hundred forty-five undergraduates were expected (fall 2020), and the average financial aid award for 2019–20 is $55,252.

Students need not worry that Amherst, a top-ranked liberal arts college, will reject them because of their family’s financial situation thanks to its need-blind admissions policy. Need-based financial aid has been a tradition at Amherst since the institution’s founding in 1821. Most recently, the college followed a no-loan policy and awarded more than $60 million in scholarships during the 2020–21 academic year.

Scholarships, grants, and student employment that averages 6–8 hours per week are all included in financial aid packages.

4. Princeton University (Princeton, New Jersey)

For the fall of 2020, there were 4,774 undergraduate students. The average financial aid package is $52,437 for 2019–20.

Princeton is a need-blind institution that goes above and beyond. The school guarantees to meet every admitted student’s demonstrated need without taking out loans while also promising not to take financial aid needs into account when making admissions decisions. Even international students are eligible for admission based solely on need

The prestigious Ivy League university provided average grants for the Class of 2025 that were higher than the annual tuition price. As a result, 83% of Princeton graduates graduated debt-free.

5. Stanford University (Stanford, California)

The estimated number of undergraduates (fall 2020) is 6,366. The average financial aid award for 2019–20 is $51,725. Stanford, one of the most prestigious universities in the world, is also regarded as one of the top need-blind universities.

The Stanford admissions office never takes the financial situation into account when making admissions decisions. The need-based financial aid program at Stanford is also advantageous to accepted students. Based on the particular financial circumstances of each family, the university determines financial need.

Most of the financial aid given to Stanford students is need-based and takes the form of university scholarships. Stanford uses the CSS Profile to generate a financial aid package rather than requesting applicants to submit a separate application for institutional aid.

6. Swarthmore University (Swarthmore, Pennsylvania)

The number of undergraduate students is 1,437, and the average financial aid award for 2019–20 is $51,291. Prestigious liberal arts college Swarthmore employs need-blind admissions, which means that decision-makers do not take into account an applicant’s capacity to pay tuition.

American citizens, lawful permanent residents, refugees, and undocumented students are all covered by this policy. In 2019–20, the institution provided $46 million in need-based aid, with a Swarthmore Scholarship being awarded to 55% of students.

Additionally, admitted students are given a financial aid package that excludes loans. Many students hold part-time jobs at on-campus businesses.

7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, Massachusetts)

A total of 4,361 undergraduates are expected (fall 2020), and the average financial aid award for 2019–20 is $50,785. We should never miss out MIT in the list of need-blind colleges in 2021. The phrase “need-blind and full-need” describes MIT.

This means that the admissions process does not take financial circumstances into account and fully meets the demonstrated need of accepted students without the use of loans. Twenty-eight percent of MIT undergraduates received scholarships and grants for the 2020–21 academic year that was equal to or greater than the cost of tuition. Approximately 60% of students were awarded an MIT Scholarship.

MIT also provides employment options to reduce reliance on student loans. In actuality, 84% of MIT graduates graduate debt-free and 94% work on a paid research project.

8. Pomona College (Claremont, California)

There are 1,475 undergraduates are expected (fall 2020), and the average financial aid award for 2019–20 is $49,264.

Pomona, one of the seven Claremont colleges in Southern California, follows a need-blind admissions policy and provides for every student’s entire demonstrated financial need. Those who are accepted are given a financial aid package that frequently consists of grants and a student employment allocation.

Fifty-seven percent of Pomona University students are awarded need-based scholarships. Due to this financial assistance, only one in three seniors who attend Pomona take out any loans to pay for expenses. When students receive outside scholarships, many schools reduce their institutional aid; however, Pomona adds outside funding to the expected student contribution and work-study aid.

9. Brown University (Providence, Rhode Island)

In Fall 2020, there were a total of 6,792 undergraduates. The typical aid package for students in 2019–20 is $47,914.

Brown promises to meet every demonstrated financial need while also utilizing a need-blind admissions policy. First-year applicants who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, including those who do not have legal status, are subject to the policy.

Gate and the main building of Brown university.

The school made a commitment to increase financial aid beginning in the fall of 2021 as part of a larger effort to make the institution more accessible. As a result, Brown will now completely cover tuition for families making less than $125,000 annually, significantly lowering the cost of an Ivy League education for many students.

10. Bowdoin College (Brunswick, Maine)

One thousand seven hundred seventy-seven undergraduate students were noted in fall 2020. The average financial aid package in 2019-20 is $46,203.

The best need-blind colleges include Bowdoin, a small liberal arts college situated along Maine’s wild coast. Bowdoin does not take financial need into account when making admissions decisions. Additionally, the college has a need-based financial aid program that covers every admitted student’s financial need.

The school offers grants and employment opportunities only; no loans are offered. It is included in the need-blind colleges in 2021 which increased its student aid budget by $3.5 million and start giving iPad Pros to each new student.

11. University of Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)

The estimated number of undergraduate students in fall 2020 is 7,056 and the average financial aid award for 2019–20 is $42,948.

Only having a financial need won’t prevent applicants from enrolling at UChicago.

The top-tier school waives application fees for all applicants for financial aid and has a No Barriers policy to increase access for all students. The institution meets all applicants’ demonstrated financial need in addition to using need-blind admissions.

The need-based aid programs at UChicago are joined by the Odyssey Scholarship and Phoenix Scholarship. Both scholarships provide financial aid to first-generation college students and offer enrichment opportunities like internships and research opportunities.

12. Davidson College – North Carolina

There were 1,983 undergraduate students for fall 2020. Davidson’s typical aid package for students in 2019–20 is $40,788.

Popular North Carolina-based liberal arts college Davidson has a need-blind admissions policy and does not take applicants’ financial situation into account. Over half of students, according to the college, receive financial aid based on need.

The Davidson Trust ensures that all financial needs of each student will be fully met by the school, free of loans. Grants and on-campus employment are included in financial aid packages. Davidson has assisted in lowering barriers to attending a prestigious liberal arts college thanks to its need-blind policy and trust.

How to Apply to a Need-Blind School?

Seeing the list of need-blind colleges in 2021 above, you’ve become interested to attend college and would want to take advantage of the financial aid packages, you might wonder “how to apply to a need-blind school?” When students apply to colleges, they complete the CSS (College Scholarship Service) or the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to describe their financial situation and request financial aid.

Young man sitting on the floor of a library while reading.

Students compute their Effective Family Contribution in these papers (EFC). The amount their family can afford to pay for college or a university each year is estimated by this calculation. They may send these documents along with their application or separately, depending on the college.

These documents are sent by need-blind colleges to a separate financial office from the admissions office. The college only reviews these documents once the student has been admitted. The school then develops a package of financial aid for the student to review.

The EFC calculator, sadly, isn’t perfect and doesn’t take special circumstances into account that might prevent a student from paying the full amount from their EFC. The school is not required to provide additional funds even though a student may request it because they have complied with their policy’s requirements.

Prospective international students, don’t need to take any special steps when applying to need-blind schools, according to experts. The U.S. universities that offer need-blind admission are extremely competitive and have low acceptance rates, so international students should be aware of this fact.

According to Karan Gupta, CEO of Karan Gupta Consulting in India, many international students mistakenly believe that asking for a lot of financial aid will reduce their admission chances at need-blind schools, even when applicants have both academic and extracurricular accomplishments.

Which need-blind college is right for you?

Here are three qualities you should look for to see which need-blind college is right for you:

1. Verify that the school is a good fit for your needs.

Need-blind colleges are excellent establishments that frequently provide qualified students with generous financial aid packages. The school you select must, however, be a good fit for you personally.

Male student smiling at the camera while holding her books and sitting on the stairs.

If a need-blind college doesn’t offer the major or opportunity you’re passionate about, it may look great on paper, but it’s probably worth applying to other schools as well.

2. Verify the calculator for financial aid at the school.

To assist you in determining the actual cost of tuition, each school has its own tuition calculator.

Here are the tuition estimators for Yale University and Tulane University, two institutions that prioritize financial need. A tuition calculator will show you what you will have to pay out of pocket to attend, even though it cannot predict the precise breakdown of your potential financial aid package. You must use the tuition estimator provided by each university when attempting to calculate your financial need.

Although your FAFSA will give you a general idea of your financial contribution, many schools, especially prestigious ones, will determine your demonstrated financial need using their own unique formula. Enter your numbers into each calculator and compare the results to get an accurate idea.

3. Avoid letting the possibility of financial aid prevent you from applying to your dream school.

Always keep in mind that your FAFSA and a tuition calculator do not equal financial aid! If the amount the forms spit out is more than you can afford, don’t give up. Universities evaluate each student’s need individually, so your financial aid package may be more generous than you anticipate! Remember that the calculators do not take into account outside scholarships, so receiving additional awards may help reduce costs.

The list goes on for need-blind colleges in 2021. Schools have even extended this policy up until the next school year. Selecting the appropriate college and type of admission for you will be challenging. That’s why AdmissionSight is here to help! Feel free to book a consultation with us.

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