The Edge Our college admission blog

Need-Aware, Need-Blind – Need Clarification?

by Katie Z, Ph.D August 19, 2015


If you checked out Admitster’s Glossary of Important Admissions Terms, you may have noticed two similar items listed that made you scratch your head and think, ” ? “.

Question Mark


Those terms are ‘Need-Aware Admission’ and ‘Need-Blind Admission’.  Both are admissions policies related to how colleges and universities use applicants’ financial circumstances in their admissions decisions.  What are the differences between the two?  Read on…

Need-Aware Admission, also known as ‘Need-Sensitive Admission’, is an admissions policy through which schools consider the amount of financial aid a prospective student would require in order to attend, factoring this information into admissions decisions.

Need-Blind Admission is an admissions policy through which schools do not consider prospective students’ financial circumstances when making admissions decisions.  However, know that there are various shades of need-blind policies.  Need-blind schools can either meet the full financial need of applicants, meet only some of that need, or meet the need of only American applicants (meaning that the college/university is need-aware for international students) and/or applicants who have not been wait-listed (i.e. being need-aware for those on their waiting list).  Also, some schools are need-blind for a given percentage of their incoming class (e.g. 90%) and then need-aware for the rest.

These two little terms are making some big waves in the world of college admissions.  Regarding future trends, some argue that while schools with larger endowments can afford to implement need-blind admissions policies, colleges and universities with increasing financial struggles of their own may turn to need-aware policies in increasing numbers, which could negatively impact the admissions chances of those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and, in turn, negatively impact diversity at those schools.  For more on this, see this article from The Wesleyan Argus, Wesleyan University’s college newspaper.

Others believe that need-blind admissions is a farce, a myth, writing that there is no such thing as a true need-blind college or university.  Those in this camp make the point that, at the end of the day, colleges need tuition to operate, so could never truly turn a blind eye to the financial ramifications associated with admissions acceptances and rejections.  To do so would be to “defy logic“.

Along these lines, some take a much broader definition of “need-blind admission”, making the point that even if college admissions officials are not spending hours combing through paperwork on prospective students’ financial situations, that socioeconomic status plays itself out in many ways on the applications, making “need-blind admission” impossible.  From test scores to advanced courses, from recommendation letters to application essays, from extracurricular activities to legacy status – wealthier students have many distinct advantages in the application process!  For more on the unlevel college admissions playing field, click here and here.

Whatever your thoughts on need-blind and need-aware admissions policies may be, be AWARE that they exist!  Click here for a list of need-blind colleges and universities and, as ever, do your own research on those schools that you’re interested in applying to!


My Question To You

by Katie Z, Ph.D August 16, 2015


A few days ago I wrote a post entitled “Ask Your Questions“, encouraging you to be bold in seeking out people and resources to help you on your college admissions journey.  Remember, “No one has made it through life without someone else’s help.”  That earlier post focused on the availability of Admitster’s newly-launched Wicked Smart College Essay Review Service – a great resource!  Today, however, as a follow-up to the “ask a question” encouragement, I’m reaching out to you, the readers of this blog, to ask you a question:

Which topics would you like to see more of under this blog’s magnifying glass / which questions would you like answered?



Your queries can be more general (e.g. I’d like to learn more about 529 plans) or more specific, for instance, detailing a situation you’re currently facing and asking for advice.  I’m sure that your questions about the college admissions process are also held by many other readers, so I hope to hear from you.  Reach out to me via e-mail ( and I’ll do what I can to help!

Ask Your Questions

by Katie Z, Ph.D August 12, 2015


The college admissions process is a maze, an obstacle course, a twisting road full of potholes and missing or conflicting road signs.  Navigating it can be a challenge, to say the least.  We all have questions that need answers, and we all need a little help sometimes.


In terms of finding useful advice, and in the case of college admissions in particular, some of us have many more resources at our disposal than others.  However, regardless of the abundance (or lack thereof) of informed people in our lives who we feel comfortable reaching out to, reach out we should!  This brings me to a quote from The Other College Guide: A Road Map To The Right School For You (page 22, if you’re curious to read more):

“In an ideal world, we’d all have awesome college counselors and sage teachers we could turn to. But most of us don’t.  Many of us don’t even have parents we can turn to because they work all the time, or they never had the opportunity to go to college themselves, or they were never around to begin with.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t have knowledgeable people in our lives whose advice we really, really trust.”  

Today’s post is meant to encourage you to be bold, to reach out to those who can help you to navigate the admissions waters – family members, counselors, teachers, friends, a boss, people in your community who have stood in your shoes.  Ask them your questions!  Seek their advice!

Keep in mind that you also have a great resource right at your fingertips – Admitster.  We’re here to help you with all things college admissions-related.  Most recently, we’ve unveiled our new Wicked Smart College Essay Review services, through which you can access help in terms of deciding which Common Application prompt to address and/or to have your college essay draft personally reviewed.  All you have to do is ask!  Contact us at or by calling us at 1-800-803-1541.  You have questions?  We have answers!

Wicked Smart College Essay Reviews

by Katie Z, Ph.D August 11, 2015


Dear Readers & Writers,

I’m thrilled to announce Admitster’s new Wicked Smart College Essay Review service!

Who are your college essay reviewers?  Well, they are yours truly (me!) and none other than Admitster’s founder, Dr. Ron Rubin.  The Wicked Smart College Essay Review offering is a huge boost to helping Admitster to further level the college admissions playing field, as this type of service has traditionally only been available to the super wealthy.  You can trust your reviewer to help you produce a great college essay!  Sound wicked cool?  We think so!



Allow me to elaborate, because one of the things I love most about my job is that this dear blog of mine has the distinct honor of being the source of much breaking Admitster news.  This news, in particular, strikes a chord with me because I’ll be able to help you to come closer to achieving your college goals.  No matter where you are in the writing process, we’re here to help.  We offer different essay services to meet your specific needs, and these offerings are priced to be affordable for everyone.  If you don’t have the money, let us know and we’ll see what we can do to help.

The offerings are as follows:

Wicked Smart College Essay Topic Selection – Are you undecided about which of the five Common Application prompts to write about?  We can help you to choose the prompt that’s best for you, and can help you to develop an inspiring, thoughtful story.

Wicked Smart College Essay Review – Whether you’re looking turn a rough draft into a finished product OR need help turning a good essay into a great essay, we’re here for you!

Wicked Smart Ultimate College Essay Package – The ultimate package combines the above-listed essay topic selection and essay review services!

To learn more about this fantastic service, just click here – it’s wicked easy!

Ride The Waves

by Katie Z, Ph.D August 8, 2015


Dear Readers,

As you well know, there’s a great deal of information out there about the college admissions process and, walking hand-in-hand with this information (over)flow, there are many terms worth knowing. Having a basic understanding of college admissions terms can really make navigating the waters of your junior and senior years in high school a lot more manageable. This being the case, today I present you with a Glossary of Important Admissions Terms.

May this glossary help you to ride the college admissions waves!

On Top of Wave Final


The terms below are listed alphabetically, and over time I’ll be adding new items to the list, so check back when you can for updates.

529 Plan – An education savings plan operated by a state or college/university. There are two types of 529 plans – prepaid tuition plans and college savings plans. These plans allow for tax-free withdrawals and growth. Click here for more information.

ACT – This standardized test is a “national college admissions examination that consists of subject area tests in English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science.” Students needing or wanting to submit test scores to colleges generally take either the ACT or the SAT (see below). Click here for more information.

Admitster – A company working to level the college admissions playing field, providing site users with a host of resources. Examples include college projections‘What If?’ Engine (that helps you to determine which actions will improve your chances of admission at the schools you’re interested in), a bookstore@admitbot (the Twitter Robot that provides great college admissions predictions based on your tweets to it), and this blog!

Affirmative Action – Positive discrimination in college admissions, favoring members of a disadvantaged group or groups. Most often, it refers to the use of race and ethnicity in admissions decisions. Today, the debate surrounding affirmative action rages on, with people standing firmly on both sides of the fence as to whether it’s a good thing or a terrible policy.

College Abacus – This site is a great resource, providing “a free service that allows users to compare their projected cost of education across schools and to identify schools within their budgets.” Click here for more information.

College App Map – A website that provides you with information on the most useful phone apps, dependent on where you are in the college admissions process. Click here for more information.

The College Board  – A non-profit organization that, among many other things, develops and administers the SAT and SAT Subject Tests. It also oversees the Advanced Placement (AP) Program. Click here for more information.

College Destinations Index – An index compiled by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) that provides detailed information on 75 of the top-ranked college towns and cities in the country. Click here for more information.

College Rankings – There are many different college ranking systems out there, all of which are designed to rank colleges based on a number of different attributes and factors. Click here for more information.

The Common Application – The Common Application, affectionately known as The Common App, is an undergraduate admissions application that allows students to apply to a number of different member schools (and there are over 500 of them) using one application. Be aware, however, that individual colleges and universities will often ask for supplements to The Common App. Click here for more information.

Early Action – Students applying to a school using the early action option will usually submit their completed applications by mid-November and hear back from colleges by January. However, being accepted via early action does not commit the applicant to that particular college or university, and students usually don’t need to inform the college of whether to expect them at orientation or not until May 1st. You can apply via early action to more than one school.

Early Decision – As is the case with early action, an early decision applicant applies to his/her dream college in the fall.  However, there are crucial differences to note between early action and early decision! For instance, you can only apply to one school using the early decision option, and you should only apply to this one school if you really want to go there, because if you’re accepted then you’re committed to attending.

Educational Tax Credits – A tax credit specifically for college expenses. For instance, to read about the American Opportunity Tax Credit, click here.

FAFSA – This is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, which helps you to determine your eligibility for federal student aid.  Based on the information in your FAFSA form, Federal Student Aid may offer you a Pell Grant, a Stafford Loan, participation in the Federal Work-Study Program, or a Federal Perkins Loan. Click here for more information.

FAFSA4caster – This planning tool is essentially a financial aid calculator that will give you a free estimate of how much financial aid you are likely to receive. Click here for more information.

Fair Test – The National Center for Fair and Open Testing. These guys are your best resource for the most up-to-date and comprehensive list of test-optional schools. Click here for more information.

Federal Work-Study Program – The program provides part-time employment for students while they’re in school. The work-study component on your college financial aid award letter lets you know the most that you can earn working on campus in a year. Click here for more information.

First Generation Student – A student whose parents have little or no college experience. Click here for more information.

Fly-In Program – A program through which a college (looking to diversify its student body, to recruit first generation students, and/or to provide opportunities for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds) will pay your transportation and accommodation costs so that you can come and visit for a few days. You must be selected to participate in a fly-in program, and different colleges have different selection criteria and different application deadlines. Click here for more information.

Gap Year – Time taken by a student after leaving high school and before starting university, usually spent working or travelling. Click here to read more about it.

In-State vs Out-Of-State Tuition – Differing tuition costs for different students at public universities, depending on which state they hail from and where they’re enrolled. To learn more, click here.

Loan – A type of financial aid that must eventually be repaid, usually with interest.

National Association for College Admission Counseling – A member-directed organization offering students, parents, counselors, and admissions professionals a wealth of information related to college admissions. Click here for more information.

National Collegiate Athletic Association – For those of you interested in being involved in athletics during your undergraduate days, the NCAA is a non-profit association that “safeguards the well-being of student-athletes and equips them with the skills to succeed on the playing field, in the classroom and throughout life.” Click here for more information.

Need-Aware Admission – Also known as ‘Need-Sensitive Admission’, this admissions policy is in place when schools may consider the amount of financial aid a prospective student would require in order to attend, factoring this information into admissions decisions.

Need-Blind Admission – An admissions policy whereby the college/university does not consider an applicant’s personal financial situation when considering whether or not to admit the prospective student.

Net Price – The college’s sticker price (tuition & fees) minus aid & benefits (grants, scholarships, and education tax benefits).  In other words, the net price is what you will actually be paying for your education.  Click here for more information.

The New SAT – The newly-designed SAT test, coming to testing centers in March of 2016. Click here for more information.

Pell Grant – A federal grant (like scholarships, grants do not need to be repaid) which depends on such factors as your financial need and the cost of attendance at your college or university. For more information, click here.

Perkins Loan – These are low-interest federal student loans for students who demonstrate financial need. Unlike grants and scholarships, loans must be repaid.  For more information on Perkins loans, click here. For more information on other low-interest federal student loans (both subsidized and unsubsidized), click here.

PLUS Loan – A loan for parents to help them contribute to the cost of their child’s undergraduate education. For more information, click here.

Reach Schools – Those colleges and universities where your chance of admission is relatively slim (that is, less than 35%).

Rolling Admissions – An admissions policy whereby colleges/universities will accept applications at any time, up until a final deadline OR until all of their available spots are full – the window for applying is usually more than six months long. Click here for more information.

Safety Schools – Those colleges and universities where you have a strong likelihood of admission (that is, 75% or greater). These are schools where your academic profile is significantly higher than the average entering student, or where you are being recruited for a specific purpose (e.g. to play sports).

SAT and SAT Subject Tests – These standardized tests are “designed to assess your academic readiness for college.” Students needing or wanting to submit test scores to college generally take either the SAT or ACT (see above). Click here for more information.

Scholarship – Free money awarded to a student in order to help pay the cost of his/her undergraduate education.  To give but a few examples of great scholarship resources, check out Scholarships.comFastweb, and/or FinAid.

Score Choice – If you take the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, or ACT more than once, Score Choice allows you to determine which scores you send to colleges (by testing date for the SAT and ACT, and by individual test for the SAT Subject Tests). Keep in mind, however, that some colleges will require you to submit all of your test scores – in those cases the element of choice is gone. For more information on ACT Score Choice click here, and for SAT and SAT Subject Test Score Choice information click here. Know that Score Choice is optional and if you opt not to use it then all of your scores will automatically be sent.

Super Score – Some colleges will consider the best of your standardized test section scores across multiple test dates, adding them together for your super score. Not all colleges and universities partake in super scoring, however, so know ahead of time if your dream colleges are super scorers or not.  For a list of SAT score use practices at different colleges and universities, see here. And the colleges on this unofficial list will super score your ACT.

Target Schools – Those colleges and universities where you have a good chance of being admitted (that is, between 35% – 75%). At these schools, your academic profile (i.e. grades, test scores, and extracurricular profile) is similar to the average entering student.

Test -Optional School – A college or university that does not require you to submit SAT or ACT scores when you apply. Click here for more information.

As ever, more to come…

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