If you browsed through Admitster’s Glossary of Important College Admissions Terms, you may have noticed two similar items listed that made you scratch your head and think, “Huh?” Those terms are Need-Aware Admission and Need-Blind Admission. Both are policies related to how colleges and universities use applicants’ financial circumstances in making admissions decisions. What are the differences between the two? Well…
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, on the other hand, is an admissions policy through which schools do not consider prospective students’ financial circumstances when making admissions decisions. Know, however, 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 with increasing financial struggles 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 are a farce, 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 true 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.
Whatever your thoughts on need-blind and need-aware admissions policies may be, do 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!