Much has been bantered about, in social media, on campus, and around the family dinner table, on the subject of paying for college. Rightfully so, at a time when college seems out of reach for all but the uber-wealthy and those living in abject poverty.

So the question is often asked, "Do colleges consider financial need when making admission decisions?"

Many colleges, in fact, most, boast that they are "need-blind" in the admissions process, meaning that they do not consider whether you will need financial aid when making a determination as to admission.

The old, "See no evil..." 

But is it really true? Do colleges not take whether you will ask the school for money into account when reviewing your application? And, if that is indeed the case, why do colleges routinely ask, "Do you intend to apply for need-based financial aid," right there on the application? 


My most knowledgeable and astute colleague, Eric Dobler, of Dobler College Consulting, recently penned an interesting and informative piece on this very issue, focusing on what is perhaps the nuanced distinction of "need-blind" versus "need aware." [Much, I suppose, like the old Seinfeld episode, where Jerry retorts to the car rental agent who has no car, "You know how to take a reservation. You just don't know how to keep a reservation!"] READ, Need Blind Versus Need Aware and Why You Should Know the Difference.

Indeed, the question of financial aid, however couched, presents itself on almost every college application, including the Common App, portal to more than 500 college applications.

The issue presents as a double-edged sword of Damocles, the need for college cash hanging over your head on one edge; the thought that colleges would rather admit students who could pay their own way, on the other.

So why ask? And when asked, why tell? 

Almost every college on the Common App comes right out and asks, "Do you intend to pursue need-based financial aid?" That would make every college "need aware," at the very least, putting finances right up there with, "Which best describes your White background?" as a factor considered in admissions.

 Along with other specious queries such as, "Which other colleges are you applying to?" (a question well examined by Nancy Griesemer's timely tale in the DC College Admissions Examiner, NACAC’s problem with ‘the question’ extends far beyond the Common Application), a college's pre-disposition to consider need, race, demographics, among other non-academic factors, in the admissions process is sufficiently present so as to at least raise an eyebrow or two. [No college, that I am aware of, has yet to ask an applicant's shoe size, so I suppose students are safe from the prying eyes of admissions officers in this regard, at least for the moment.]

Answer the questions? Let them go? There is no pat response or clear, across the board rejoinder. That which seemingly appears innocuous may well be determinative, push comes to shove, or dollars come to cents. Each student's specific circumstance must be judged on its own merits, as well as how particular colleges have historically taken such matters into account.

All things considered (and, every once in a blue moon, they actually are), a student's ability to pay for college, and the corresponding "need" (by whatever measure that may be quantified), should have little bearing upon whether that student is a candidate worthy of admission. Still, one should never lose sight of that bottom line -- which, to colleges (even of the so-called "not-for-profit" variety) comes down to the black ink preceded by a dollar sign. The well-rounded applicant matters, of course. So, too, do enrollment figures, endowments (and how not to spend them), and who, ultimately, will foot the bill to pay for your higher education.

 By the way, saying NO when asked, "Do you intend to apply for need-based financial aid?" does not necessarily preclude you from changing your intent (as you do your underwear, hopefully on a daily basis, or intent to declare a major). You may still submit an application for need-based aid after you submit your application for admission (which is what you do, anyway, in most cases), "need" being rather subjective.

Going full circle regarding the consideration of need, students, and their parents, would be wise, when considering where to apply to college, to strongly consider affordability among the salient factors in choosing a college. The less student debt, the better. And, though it should go without saying (I'll say it anyway), graduating without student loans, is the best debt of gratitude you can pay to anyone!

- - -

Plan. Prepare. Prevail!

Before college applications, the Common App, CSS Profile, FAFSA, financial aid forms, and the whole college application and admissions process get to you, you need to get to us!

Whether applying to college, paying for college, planning for college, or just thinking about college, contact us at COLLEGE CONNECTION, home of The College Whisperer™ and Official Sponsor of College Admission Success™. No one knows college admissions like COLLEGE CONNECTION. No one! 516-345-8766

Find out why they say COLLEGE CONNECTION is, “The best darn college planner on Long Island!”

For up-to-the-minute news, apps, info and insights on college applications, admissions, scholarships and just about everything college, follow The College Whisperer™ on Twitter at