Officials at The George Washington University (GW) recently admitted that the school’s admissions policy is not truly “need-blind,” as it had previously claimed. Some applicants slated for acceptance instead were wait-listed because they required financial aid.
At last count, 99 of the country’s approximately 6,000 colleges and universities claimed to be need-blind—to not consider applicants’ aid requirements when deciding who gets in. But GW probably isn’t alone in breaking its own need-blind admissions rules—and even when need-blind policies are followed, there usually are loopholes. For example, of those 99 “need-blind” schools, only five extend the need-blind policy to students on their waiting lists. In other words, when a need-blind college places an applicant on its waiting list, that student’s financial-aid requirements very likely will be a factor in determining whether that student eventually gets in. The only exceptions are Amherst, Babson, Bard, Baylor and Wellesley.
And of the 99 need-blind schools, only 62 guarantee that they will provide all the aid students require to enroll. At the other 37, students might very well be accepted only to discover that they can’t afford to attend.
What to do: Students who can comfortably afford to attend college without financial aid might consider not applying for aid. Being able to pay the full tuition could improve their odds of getting in—even if the school claims to be need-blind. Students who cannot comfortably afford to forgo grants and loans should apply for aid, however. There’s no point in getting in and then not being able to afford to attend.
Warning: Some students claim not to need financial aid when applying to colleges in order to improve their odds of getting in, then try to apply for aid in future years. But most schools allow students who initially claimed to not require aid to later request it only if they can show that their finances dramatically worsened in the interim.