What if you could get into the prestigious school of your dreams without having to take out loans to pay for it?
At six of the most well-known campuses in the U.S., that’s a reality.
Need-blind admissions benefits students
Believe it or not, when you apply for college, most admissions officers hold your application in one hand — and your FAFSA in the other.
After all, your FAFSA — or Free Application for Federal Student Aid — shows how much money your family could reasonably put toward the cost of your attendance, an amount officially designated as your “Expected Family Contribution” (EFC).
With this information handy, schools inevitably accept or deny some applicants based partly on how those students would affect the institution’s bottom line.
At a need-blind school with a healthy endowment, however, the admissions department doesn’t consider your family’s financials at all. Their decision on whether to accept you is made regardless of your FAFSA and EFC.
Once you’re “in,” your level of need come back into play — and it could help you cover the cost of attendance.
6 prestigious schools with need-blind admissions — and need-based financial aid
Keep in mind that “need” is the key word here. You probably won’t receive a full ride to a top school if your FAFSA does in fact pump out a high EFC.
That’s where the following six schools stand out from other colleges with generous aid packages. They not only disregard your family’s finances when evaluating your application — they’ll also get you the funding you need so you won’t have to borrow as much, or at all.
1. Amherst College
Amherst College’s price tag runs about $75,000 when including non-academic expenses like housing and transportation.
But with some students from lower-income backgrounds receiving free or almost-free rides, the average Amherst student reeled in $53,577 of financial aid during the 2017-2018 school year.
The school has wholly replaced loans with scholarships and grants, as well as six to eight hours of weekly employment on or off campus.
If you’re eyeing this private liberal arts college, you can even skip the college’s application fees if you’re a first-generation student or have an annual household income of less than $65,000.
2. Harvard University
After admitting the best applicants regardless of their financial need, Harvard University considers need before merit when dispensing aid.
The Ivy League school employs its nearly $40 billion endowment proportionally for students based on their family’s income level:
|Less than $65,000||0%|
|Between $65,000 and $150,000||0% to 10% of their income|
|$150,000 or higher||10% or more of their income|
With its “no loans required” declaration, a typical financial aid package to attend Harvard, for example, includes a parent’s help, scholarships and student employment.
3. Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins joined the exclusive need-blind, no-loans club, thanks to alumnus and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s $1.8 billion donation in November 2018.
The university has since said it will become “a loan-free institution” by the fall of 2019, replacing debt with scholarships financed by Bloomberg’s gift.
As a result, America’s self-proclaimed “first research university” has suddenly become much more affordable. The annual cost of tuition alone — ignoring all the other costs of college — hovers around $50,000.
Unlike other schools on this list, however, Johns Hopkins does fall short of “need-blindness” for international students. Instead, it notes that it is “need-aware” for this group of applicants, taking finances into account when deciding whether to admit non-residents.
4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
This world-renowned university is similarly expensive, with a sticker price of $70,240 per year when including room, board and other school costs.
Still, with a need-blind admission process and need-based financial aid program, MIT makes it possible for any top student to enroll and leave without a burdensome student debt.
In 2017, 72% of MIT undergrads left school debt-free. But that’s where the tech giant of a school falls a bit short of its peers mentioned in this article: Its need-based aid options span scholarships, grants and job opportunities — but also loans.
5. Princeton University
You don’t have to worry that your grade point average is good enough to get into Princeton — but not good enough to receive financial aid. Your access to grants will depend on your gross family income, as the school doesn’t offer merit-based assistance.
It has also set a clear threshold for Class of 2022 students: If your household earns less than $160,000 annually, you’ll typically pay no tuition.
With an endowment approaching $25 billion, you can also expect Princeton’s generous policies to hold steady until your children — and perhaps grandchildren — apply for college too.
6. Yale University
Like Amherst and Johns Hopkins, Yale goes the distance, seeking to guarantee a loan-free college experience.
Plus, it doesn’t expect parents earning less than $65,000 in combined income to contribute a cent toward their student’s cost of attendance.
Be prepared for work to be a part of your financial aid package, however. The university reports that students earn at least $12.50 per hour from their part-time work, which is above the $10.10 minimum wage (as of the end of 2018) in Connecticut, where Yale is located.
The university also utilizes governmental programs, including work-study, the Federal Pell Grant, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) and state grants, before dipping into school resources.
Avoid the nightmare costs of your dream school
If you (or your child) has long desired to attend one of the country’s top universities, it might now seem like a reachable goal. This exclusive list of six universities that pair need-blind admissions and need-based financial aid are joined by dozens of other programs that offer one feature or the other.
No matter which schools you’re considering, confirm your eligibility for need-based aid using net price calculators. Try searching online for “[school name] net price calculator,” as all colleges and universities are required by the federal government to host the calculator on their websites. Many top schools also provide quote-like estimates via MyinTuition.
After entering basic personal and financial information, you’ll receive the projected cost of attendance. Then it’s it up to you to decide if the accompanying aid package is reasonable enough to enroll.
And if you don’t have your heart set on a school with a prestigious reputation, consider other colleges that’ll help you avoid debt.
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