What is Need-Blind Admissions?

You’re compiling a list of your preferred universities. Suddenly you find it. Your dream school. The campus is gorgeous, the location is perfect, and most importantly, your program is offered. However, there’s a phrase you keep noticing as you click through the website: “Need-Blind Admissions”.

What on earth is that?

If you haven’t come across the term “Need-Blind Admissions” while researching higher education, you probably will. What is it and should you apply? Here’s what you need to know.


What Is Need-Blind Admissions?

Need-Blind Admissions is basically a shorthand way of saying that the institution admits applicants based on their academic and extracurricular records. The financial situation of the student or the student’s family isn’t taken into account under this policy. In the United States, many institutions admit individuals this way. Usually this admissions process is backed with a policy that promises some degree of financial aid for students who need it, but that’s not always the case.


How Does This Work?

At colleges and universities that have purely need-blind admissions, without any kind of financial aide guarantee, the students are expected to fund their studies on their own. Fortunately, many schools do provide ways for individuals to study affordably. Some of these include:



Institutions that meet the financial needs of their students are called “full-need.” Some schools, like Harvard University and Yale University, are full-need for all of their applicants. Others, such as Cornell University, are full-need to applicants who are based in the US but don’t extend the same promise to international students. This may or may not be a concern depending on your citizenship status and where you are based at the time of your application.



Under need-sensitive or need-aware policies, schools will consider most qualified applicants on a need-blind basis and will provide financial aid as it’s needed. However, they may have a quota for students who don’t need aid or they may refuse to accept borderline-qualified applicants if it looks like they’ll be in need of aid. Duke University and the University of Notre Dame are examples of schools that do this.


Which Colleges and Universities are More Likely to Use Need-Blind Admissions?

The need-blind versus need-aware schools distinction can actually be divided along the lines of public universities and private ones. Since private institutions are typically more dependent on tuition fees for their income, many of them simply don’t have the resources to offer financial aid to their students and are usually need-aware as a result. That said, some private schools may be need-blind in the admissions process with the understanding that students will likely have to cover tuition costs on their own. A small number of private colleges and universities are need-blind and full-need. For example, Amherst College and Harvard University are need-blind and full-need for all applicants, including international students. Some private schools, such as Swarthmore College, are need-blind and full-need for US applicants only. Even in the public sector, many universities are full-need and need-blind only for American citizens or residents.


What Does This Mean For You?

The good news about the need-blind process is that you can get into school purely on your own merit, without regard for whether or not you can pay. Depending on where you apply, however, you may find yourself freelancing out there when it comes to getting financial assistance. You’ll need to consider scholarshipsfederal financial aid, and student loans. Even so, there are a number of prestigious schools that are need-blind and full-need. The competition is fierce, but if you can find one that’s full-need for international applicants as well, you’ll have hit the jackpot.

As you can see, finding a university that meets your financial as well as academic needs isn’t rocket science. However, due to what’s meant by terms like “need-blind” and “need-aware”, it’s easy to see why people sometimes get confused when they’re going through those application forms. So with all of that settled, the question still remains: Is a need-blind college or university the right thing for your academic career? The answer will ultimately depend on your financial need, your transcripts, and your own personal preferences.