You are here

Interested in studying abroad?

Check out our comprehensive guides

Guide to Need-Blind Admission at US Universities

Guide to Need-Blind Admission at US Universities main image

If you want to study in the US, you’ll know it doesn’t come cheap – US universities charge some of the highest tuition fees in the world, especially those prestigious colleges with strong global reputations. However, while tuition fees at top US universities can easily amount to $US40-50,000 per year (not including accommodation, health insurance and other costs), there are lots of scholarships and other types of financial aid on offer.

One form of financial aid which is particularly distinctive to the US is associated with “need-blind admission”. This term means an institution has an official policy of not considering applicants’ financial resources when deciding whether to offer them a place. This policy may be extended to all students, including internationals, or it may be limited to US nationals only. In some (not all) cases, US universities accompany need-blind admission policies with “full-need” pledges, which means they promise to provide sufficient financial aid to enable all accepted students to attend.

What does need-blind admission really mean?

The implications of need-blind admission policies vary depending on the institution. The common element is that US universities promising need-blind admission do not consider applicants’ ability to pay when deciding whether to offer them a place on a program. This may only apply to applicants from within the US, or it may be extended to international students as well.

Some US universities have need-blind admission policies, but do not promise any connected financial aid. This means students offered a place may not be able to accept it, if they’re unable to meet the costs of attendance.

However, other US universities accompany their need-blind admission policies with a pledge to meet the full financial need of all those offered a place. Most often, this pledge only applies to US nationals, but there are currently six elite institutions (see below) which also promise the same level of financial assistance for international students.

Will need-blind admission mean your tuition fees are fully paid?

In short, no. Even if the institution in question has pledged to help all students meet the costs of attendance, this does not mean a totally free ride. You’ll be expected to make some financial contribution, which is usually calculated based on an assessment of your parents’ income and other resources. You may also be expected to take out student loans to cover part of the costs, and/or participate in a “work-study” program, which means working part-time alongside your studies.

However, most students admitted via a need-blind and full-need admission policy do also benefit from substantial amounts of scholarship or grant funding.

Which US universities offer need-blind admission?

Lots of US universities have some form of need-blind admission policy, but – as mentioned above – this does not always extend to international applicants, and does not always mean admissions offers are accompanied by financial aid. Currently, only five US universities offer need-blind admission and full-need financial aid to all students, including international applicants. These are:

As you’ll probably know, these are not just any five US universities – they’re five of the most prestigious colleges in the US, and indeed the world. MIT is currently at the very top of the QS World University Rankings®, with Harvard coming in third the world, Princeton 13th and Yale 15th. Amherst is too small and specialized to feature in the international rankings – but it rates highly in assessments dedicated to liberal arts education. The Curtis Institute of Music, which was ranked eighth for performing arts in the most recent QS World University Rankings by Subject, is also need-blind to all students.

These are some of the toughest US universities at which to gain admittance, but if you are successful, each institution promises to provide sufficient financial aid to make it possible for you to attend, regardless of your financial situation or nationality.

Many other US universities also offer generous scholarships and other forms of funding. So even if you don’t see a need-blind admission or full-need policy indicated, don’t let the high tuition fees and other costs deter you from applying. All US universities are required to offer a “net price calculator” on their websites, which allows prospective students to get an estimate of how much it would actually cost them to study in the US at the institution in question. This is based on individual students’ financial circumstances, available grants and scholarships, and estimated living costs.

This article was originally published in January 2015. It was last updated on June 2018 to reflect the latest QS World University Rankings® results.

Want more content like this? Register for free site membership to get regular updates and your own personal content feed.

Related categories:

Ganiyu A, Andra Huei Hsia L & 7 others saved this
Written by Laura Bridgestock
The former editor of TopUniversities.com, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Rankings?'

Want to leave a comment?

Please login or register to post
comment above our articles


Hi, Please can you recommend colleges in USA for Bachelors program in Design which offer good scholarship/ need blind. I am a US national living in India. Thanks in advance.

Hi I'm Swayamshree Mohanty from India.
Can I study B.S. Business Administration in Wharton after my high school for free or very less cost? Plz provide me the details

Gday, My son and I are trying to find out how he can study Audio production and entertainment management in the States

Hello Laura and Sabrina!
Do Harvard, Yale, Princeton and MIT offer need-blind admission to international students for graduate degrees?

Yes bud, they do. My parents' monthly income is 2.5lpa, and according to the calculator, I will be paying about 10lakhs for four years. Do checkout the financial aid calculator in their respective websites.


Hello Laura and Sabrina!
Do Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and MIT offer need-blind admission to international students for graduate degrees?

Sabrina Hi again.I study Baku State Uni. Can i study as a master in USA with the full scholarship. I have leadership skills and uni has been awarded me for this two times. I have certificates for leadership skills.

Hi Emil, I've replied to your comment here. :)

Hello, Im brazilian and im looking for top 100 universities in UK and EUA. I need financial aid for my PhD. How is the process for non blind aplications? its possible get 100% support? TY

Hi Arthur, I'm afraid need-blind admission is only available in the US, and (as detailed in this article) does not give full payment of tuition fees. However, you might be able to find a scholarship to study in Europe or the UK. Here are the results of our latest rankings, which you can narrow down by region or country. Hope this helps.

Dartmouth is no longer need blind to international students. Please update your article.

Hi Jake, thanks for letting us know. The article has now been updated. 

Join the discussion...friends who will pay for all my charges to canada in return i will pay back

Hey Laura! Can you please mention more universities which are need blind for international students?
Thanks a lot!

Hi Shikhar. I'm afraid only a few US universities are entirely need-blind for international students - those are the six listed above. However, lots of US universities do offer scholarships and support for international students. For more information, this article about the costs of studying in the US may help.

hiiii....Laura Bridgestock can you give me a good mba college list having international business please in usa??
and also i need what process i need for study in USA right now i am in last year of my undergraduate.

Hi Dishant. You'll find lots of dedicated information about MBAs on our sister site, TopMBA.com - including rankings of MBA programs by region. For more details about studying abroad in the US, visit our country guide, here. It might be worth pointing out that most MBA programs require you to gain at least a few years' professional experience, so you may need to spend some time working in a relevant field before applying for an MBA. Finally, you can meet business schools from around the world at the QS World MBA Tour, and a wide range of universities at the QS World Grad School Tour. Hope this is helpful!

Hello laura,
I am Vikash from India has completed my MSc(CS) in 2014, i want to apply for MS/PhD Program in these top 100 universities. Please tell me that what i have to do for admission ?? and how can i will get notification for admission in these universities???

Hi Vikash - please see my response to your question here.


Hello laura
I am from nepal

I want to complete my undergraduate from one of the best university.but i don't know about the criteria and requirement for applying these universities....can u help me .i want to study accounting and finance.
Thank you

Hi Roshan. You may be interested in our ranking of the world's top universities for accounting and finance, here. For information on applying to universities in the US, visit our country guide, here. We also have guides to studying in lots of other countries, here. Hope this helps!