Need-Blind vs. Need-Aware in the College Admissions Process

Sometimes it is important to remember that, deep down, colleges are businesses.

Certainly, the goal of these “corporations” is primarily to educate rather than profit, but they also face many of the same financial challenges as any other company.

And while each institution handles the process in their own unique way, admissions almost always boil down to a calculated business decision.

Read on to learn the different ways universities take your financial status into account, and how it can affect your child’s collegiate and economic future.

Need-Blind vs. Need-Aware

For starters, when you apply for college, you will be asked whether or not you will also be applying for financial aid.

It is absolutely essential that you understand how your answer to that question can affect the way the university will view the application.

As I stated, every institution has developed distinct admissions and financial aid methods based on their own unique challenges and circumstances.

Nonetheless, every school generally falls into one of two groupings: Need-Blind and Need-Aware.

A school which represents itself as need-blind does not take an applicant’s financial aid necessity into account when making admissions decisions.

This policy means that students from higher-income families (those who will be paying all or most of the school’s admissions price tag) are on equal admissions footing with students from relatively lower income families (those who for the most part would need the college to foot a significant part of the bill in order to attend.)

Conversely, a need-aware college may take a student’s ability to pay into account when deciding whether or not to admit them.

Since tuition provides much of a school’s revenue, students who require more financial aid may have more difficulty gaining entrance to a need-aware university.


The need-blind policy seems like a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, the difficulties of the current economy have caused endowments to shrink, making need-blind policies difficult to maintain, or even – at times – economically unsustainable.

This has resulted in what’s called “gapping:” the practice of need-blind schools offering admittance to financially needy students without offering enough aid for such students to afford to enroll; a heartbreaking prospect.

On the other hand, most need-aware schools will actually admit a majority of its freshman class without regard for financial need.

The best qualified candidates are usually admitted no matter their economic status, but the more marginal students (the final 10%-30% admitted) may likely get in only if they can afford the sticker price.

With need-blind schools, financially needy families would be wise to explore the percentage of need that the school fulfills, understand the possibility that gapping may occur, and be aware that need can be fulfilled with loans that your child must pay back.

Of course, if you cannot afford a school you should still always apply for financial aid, no matter what impact it may have on your child’s chances of admission.

To Your Family’s Financial Planning Success,

Scott Weingold

Co-Founder, College Planning Network, LLC

Publisher, College Made Simple – The Free Educational Resource of the College Planning Network, LLC

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.