When making admissions decisions, some colleges consider the applicant’s ability to pay for college, and others do not. “Need-blind” schools, such as Brown University, admit students without considering their finances. They often commit in advance to provide scholarships to any admitted student whose family cannot pay the full tuition, and some even make it possible for all students to graduate without loans.

Unfortunately, not every school has the endowment funding to be so generous. “Need-aware” schools rely more heavily on tuition to fund their operations, and make admissions decisions that take into account how much each student is likely to pay. They may still offer generous financial aid to some students, but they also need to balance it out with plenty of students who can pay most or all of the fare. 

External scholarships tend to consider either need or merit, but not both. Remember, though, that these terms can be broadly applied. Given the high cost of college, even relatively high-income families can be eligible for at least some need-based aid, and there are a dizzying array of merit scholarships celebrating a wide range of achievements. Learn more about merit scholarships at Road2College.