How is financial status weighted?
So I am part of the middle class, maybe the middle-upper class. I'm not low income, so I don't get benefits like compelling essay stories (if that is a prompt), and I'm not rich either, so I don't get that bonus. Will being in my financial range affect my admissions to top schools like Harvard or Princeton?
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To be clear, your admissions at all Top Elite colleges like Ivys and MIT/CalTech, Rice, Duke, etc are not impacted by how little your family makes or how much your family makes because they are all 100% Need Blind. This means that they make all their admit decisions based on your application without regard to your family assets or income. While that is the stated policy of saying the Top 50 colleges, if you are Baron Trump, they might be nudged in either direction regardless of their school policy.
Therefore unless you are a 1.) recruited athlete, 2.) legacy, 3.) development candidate ($$$ donations), 4.) parents work at the school, 5.) someone famous for doing amazing work Malala, David Hogg 6.) or ear-marked by the Dean of Admissions (for whatever reason), you are going to have to wow them with your 1.) Academics (Grades, UWGPA, Course Rigor, Intellectual Curiosity, SAT/ACT, APs, IBs, SAT IIs), 2.) Your ECs, 3.) Your Essays, 4.) Recommendations, 5.) Character (either evidenced through all the above or an interview or add'l portfolio submission like a video).
With regards to financial aid, all the IVYS and Top Elite colleges have a sliding scale of financial aid, so if you have an assumption that only low-income students apply and get the generous financial aid that is incorrect. I pulled info on Harvard Princeton and added Yale as well. Aid is available for families in the 6 figures and up to the mid 6 figures depending on the circumstances. If you have siblings in college or boarding school, the FinAid Office takes that into account. So someone with 3/4 siblings in that situation will still get aid, even if their parents make $300-$400,000.
One thing I'm calling you out on is that backhanded comment about "compelling essay stories". I will tell and correct you that very few essays from low-income applicants are pity party stories about growing up poor, shopping at Walmart, working at McDonald's, and not having the resources to play club sports or go on Spring break like other upper-middle-class students. No one gets into Ivy League colleges by having Admissions Officers feeling sorry for them. They are just as qualified or more qualified than you because they had to get to the same place without having the 1.) the same highly-funded schools and resources based on their zip code 2.) limited AP and Honors classes, Clubs, and Sports 3.) Limited or no technology, 4.) zero funds to have tutors, or go to after school programs, 5.) zero budget to attend Princeton Review or Stanley Kaplan, 6.) zero budget to have college coaches or private counselors, 7.) limited budgets to take standardized tests or pay for college applications. 8.) Other familial obligations like babysitting, meal prep, housework because 9.) And in many cases food insecurity, housing insecurity, and health insecurity because they have no health insurance and last but not least 10.) some of these low-income people you talk about have parents that speak other languages at home or are uneducated to help their kids with homework or college applications. So I'm helping you but I'm also calling you out on your privilege, okay and your casual assumption that low-income applicants get some boost from writing essays about their sad existence, they don't.
Harvard Financial Aid Cutoffs:
For families with annual incomes below $65,000, the expected contribution is zero. Families with annual incomes between $65,000 and $150,000 will contribute between 0 and 10 percent of their income. Those with incomes above $150,000 will be asked to pay proportionately more than 10 percent based on their circumstances.
Gross Family Income Parent Contribution
$0 - $65,000 $0
$65,000 - $150,000 Either $0 or up to $6,500 - $15,000
$150,000 and up Greater than $15,000 proportionately with their income
$ 250,000 to $400,000 (Probably 60% to 75% of tuition plus room and board)
Yale Financial Aid Cutoffs:
Who qualifies for financial aid?
The table below shows median financial aid awards for families of first-year students in the Class of 2023 who applied for aid.
Gross Family Income Median Net Cost Median Scholarship % of Applicants Qualifying for Aid
$0 - $65,000 $2,850 $76,925 100%
$65,000 - $100,000 $5,701 $70,217 99%
$100,000 - $150,000 $15,528 $60,295 99%
$150,000 - $200,000 $29,721 $46,326 95%
$200,000 - $250,000 $42,964 $31,196 79%
Over $250,000 $43,704 $28,881 25%
Princeton Financial Aid Cutoffs:
Financial Aid for Students Admitted to the Class of 2019
Tuition: $43,450 Room and board: $14,160
Gross Family Income Average Grant What It Covers
$0 - $65,000 $57,000 Full tuition, room + board
$65,000 - 85,000 $53,400 Full tuition, 70% room + board
$85,000 - 100,000 $50,300 Full tuition, 48% room + board
$100,000 - 120,000 $47,400 Full tuition, 28% room + board
$120,000 - 140,000 $44,400 Full tuition, 7% room + board
$140,000 - 160,000 $41,200 95% of tuition
$160,000 - 180,000 $37,300 85% of tuition
$180,000 - 200,000 $29,800 68% of tuition
$200,000 - 250,000 $24,900 57% of tuition
$250,000 and above $19,000 43% of tuition
It seems that you have already gotten some excellent and detailed information in the answers above and below. I just want to reiterate that both Harvard and Princeton are need-blind schools and to add on that both schools meet the full demonstrated need of each of their students. As such, a student's financial need does not factor into admissions decisions. Your chance of admission will not decrease if you fill out the FAFSA and CSS profile, and it wont increase if you don't fill them out. Finally, if you qualify for aid, Harvard and Princeton will provide you with scholarships (not loans) that cover the full difference between their Cost of Attendance (COA) and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) they calculate for you.
This is all to say that your socioeconomic status will not affect your chances of admission at Harvard and Princeton, and that if you think you might qualify for need-based aid, you should definitely fill out the FAFSA and CSS when you apply to these schools.
Wishing you the best of luck in your applications!
So without knowing your EFC (you can estimate it here https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college/paying-your-share/expected-family-contribution-calculator ) then what ever you can’t pay let’s say you can pay 15k/year and while Harvard may cost 70k a year Harvard will give you fin-aid equal to the remaining costs (55k). As for admissions re: family income all of these schools on the list on the link below don’t factor in income when they make a decision on your application. It also explains the policy of need blind which is the term for not factoring in income when admitting students.
Hope this helps and please comment if you need clarification as I’d be happy to help clarify!
I believe college-tuition at ivies and other prestigious colleges are definitely affordable—you’ve worked that hard to get there, so why stress the financial hardships? If a school like Harvard or Princeton accepts you, they see extraordinary, world-leader potential in you and would do anything to keep you (their endowment renders this a possibility)! Fun fact: the only college in the world that produces more worldly leaders than Harvard is Oxford in England!
Anyways, Harvard, by their view book, claims that 1 in every 5 students walks the campus tuition-free with 100% of their students receiving financial aid. They also boast to have a legendary financial aid system for a host of many diverse students of all backgrounds—this is quite believable for the school has a $41.9 B endowment. They’ve also said “The average family contribution is 12k” and “100% of students CAN graduate debt-free.” (https://college.harvard.edu/financial-aid) Keep in mind they’ve also got a net-price calculator. (https://college.harvard.edu/financial-aid/net-price-calculator)
Meanwhile, Princeton’s financial aid claims that for families with incomes of less than $65,000 , they will walk campus tuition-free. They’ve also claimed that “83% of recent seniors graduated debt-free”. This is a more solid fact than the Harvard statement above that indicated the potential with CAN. These aids too are quite believable for the school holds a $25.9 B endowment. (https://admission.princeton.edu/cost-aid)
I believe both are affordable for any income of any background. When your at a school like the two aforementioned, you should be focused on your studies and your impact on the world, not the financial stresses—best of luck!!
Hope this helped!!