It's important to understand how the colleges on your list view your financial situation in terms of admissions decisions. Most colleges and universities are transparent about these policies:
- Need-blind: An applicant's ability to pay for their education will not be a factor in the college's decision to admit, wait-list or reject the applicant.
- Need-aware or Need-sensitive: Colleges do consider the applicant's ability to pay for education when making admission decisions.
It might seem totally unfair for a college to consider rejecting an applicant in part because of an ability to pay full tuition, but there's a reason that some colleges are need-aware: This allows them to guarantee that they can meet the full demonstrated financial needs of the students who receive aid. Need-aware admission policies, however, do not provide students with real strategic leverage on their applications. No matter what, if you have a lackluster transcript and average test scores, your bank account is not going to get you into your dream college. The only scenario where the ability to pay for college can meaningfully impact your college decision is if your application lands in the “maybe" pile at a need-aware institution. In that case, being able to pay full sticker price may help move you into the “accepted" category.
If you are in the fortunate position of being able to pay full sticker price for your college education, and your dream school is a highly-selective, need-blind university, you might want to confirm that a couple of other schools on your list are need-aware.
If you know you will need financial aid to complete your degree and your dream school is need-aware, you might consider adding a need-blind college to your list.
Ultimately, these policies should not play a major role in choosing the colleges that fit you best. Most colleges and universities do not give your finances significant weight in admission decisions. You are better served focusing on the college's academic offerings and extracurricular resources when choosing where to apply, and working on your grades and test scores to increase your chances of acceptance.
If you will need financial aid and anticipate that you are eligible for it, you should apply for it and answer any relevant questions on your college application honestly (the Common Application asks if you will be applying for aid or not). If you indicate on your application that you will not need aid and get accepted, you won't be able to apply for financial aid later — the school's financial aid office will have already apportioned the aid available for the year. It doesn't matter if you get into a great school if you can't pay for it (and taking on loads of debt to pay for college isn't a great idea for your financial future).
The following schools are both need-blind and meet the full demonstrated needs of all admitted students (note that these policies may differ for international or transfer students, or students who are admitted from the waitlist). At most of these schools, admission is highly competitive:
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