Need-aware’ policy affects foreign applicants

Nathalie Tadena

With less than one week left to decide on college enrollment, finances factor into many high school seniors’ decisions – especially when they are applying from abroad.

Only eight schools in the U.S. evaluate all international applicants with need-blind procedures. Northwestern is not one of them. While schools including Yale University, Harvard University, Princeton University and Williams College admit all their students without regard to family income, NU only evaluates domestic applications as need-blind .

For international applicants, the game is slightly different.

“We’re able to offer a limited amount of financial aid (for international students),” said Associate Provost Mike Mills. “It’s a lot harder to get in this funnel because it’s more competitive.”

When international students apply, they are placed in two groups. Those who do not request financial aid are considered with other domestic applicants. Those who do indicate they wish to be considered for financial aid are evaluated using “need-aware” practices and can receive financial assistance.

According to the admissions Web site, “Northwestern will not offer admission to some candidates who are otherwise well-qualified.”

Since international students are not U.S. citizens, they are not eligible for government-based financial aid, which comprises most of NU’s aid. Applying early decision also exempts international students from receiving aid.

Clarissa Nebuya, a Medill sophomore from Japan, was able to apply early decision because she secured a private scholarship.

“Many students who apply here have to be extremely confident to obtain (financial aid) or have the means to pay for tuition,” she said.

Overall, NU received an increase in international applications this year. International students make up 5.8 percent of admitted students, compared to 5 percent last year. The Class of 2012 has 140 international students out of more than 2,000 students.

Mills called the increase was a “big surprise.”

“We are up in international applications on the basis of international students with the capacity to pay for their education in full (without financial assistance),” he said.

But Mills said about 25 percent of international students applying for financial aid were accepted, also an increase from previous years.

Radu Cret, a Weinberg freshman from Romania, said he applied to both need-blind and need-aware U.S. schools. Although NU offered Cret a smaller financial aid package than other schools, he said it was still enough to convince him to come.

“Financial aid was vital in my decision,” he said. “Without it I wouldn’t be able to come to school here.”

Williams College became the first liberal arts college and the fourth school in the U.S. to announce need-blind admissions for international applicants in 2001.

“It certainly has had a serious positive effect on our international students,” said Jim Kolesar , assistant to the president for public affairs at Williams.

Of the 158 international students currently enrolled at Williams, 138 of them receive aid from the college, he said.

“It’s an increasingly international world, so it made sense to bring more of that into our classrooms,” said Kolesar, who also noted an increase in international applicants.

Middlebury College has also employed need-blind admissions for international students in previous years but changed its policy for this year because of financial constraints.

“We make our first round of decisions need-blind,” said Barbara Marlow, Middlebury’s associate director for international students. “We change decisions for some international students only if we need to stay within a budget.”

Marlow said many applicants may not know what need-blind admissions really entails.

“When students know schools are willing to commit significant amounts of money in financial aid to international students, that’s the larger factor in where students decide to apply,” she said.

But for many students applying to NU, the quality of academics and university prestige is still a factor.

“To a certain extent, aid is a factor,” Nebuya, from Japan, said. “But I just wanted to go somewhere where I could get a good education.”

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