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Brown just went universal need-blind. What does that mean?

The Herald takes a look at Dartmouth’s admissions data for possible implications

On Jan. 25, Brown officially announced plans to become the eighth U.S. college to offer need-blind admissions to international students.

The new policy may lead to a decrease in Brown’s acceptance rate, according to Sara Harberson, a former associate dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of the private college counseling service Application Nation.

Brown “will be admitting some high-need (low-income) international students in Regular Decision who presumably will get offers from other elite colleges that have been need-blind (for international students) for a long time,” Harberson wrote.

“If Brown offers better financial aid to international students, then (the students’) likelihood to enroll may be higher than it currently is,” she added. “When yield increases, the college doesn’t have to admit as many students to (fully) enroll the class.”


Dean of Admissions Logan Powell noted that there are two factors changing the admissions process for the class of 2029: a return to standardized testing and need-blind admissions for international students. “It is still too early to speculate about the admit rate given that one of those two important factors is still to be determined,” he wrote in an email to The Herald. 

The Herald took a look at Dartmouth’s admissions data to examine the potential implications of Brown’s new admissions policy.

In 2008, Dartmouth implemented need-blind admissions for international students of the class of 2012. The policy was reversed in 2015 due to a lack of financial resources, according to The Dartmouth.

In the early 2000s, Dartmouth tended to accept between one-fifth and one-sixth of applicants. After the 2008 policy change, the acceptance rate dipped to 9.44% in 2010. But when the school reversed need-blind international admissions in 2015, its acceptance rate rose to 10.5% for the class of 2020, with 2,176 students admitted.

In 2022, Dartmouth again implemented need-blind admissions for international students, starting with the class of 2026.

Since then, the college has had “consistent record-high numbers of international students apply to Dartmouth,” Lee Coffin, Dartmouth’s vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid, wrote in an email to The Herald.

The number of international applicants also increased significantly when Dartmouth went need-blind in 2008. In 2007, 1,974 international students applied to Dartmouth; the number jumped to 2,678 in 2008.

At Dartmouth, first-year Aryanna Ram said that need-blind admissions were a “game-changer.” 

“Not that many schools are internationally need blind,” she said. “So if you require substantial financial aid as an international, there are limited options.”


Harberson said shifting to a need-blind policy for international applicants will likely change the geographical composition of admitted international students, but will likely not affect the overall percentage of international students in the admitted pool of students because colleges typically limit this proportion. Penn, for instance, limited international students to between 11-13% of the admitted class when Harberson worked in its admissions office, she said. According to Powell, Brown has “no artificial caps” on admitted students.

“Our expectation is that the international student body will become more socioeconomically diverse, but that the share of international students within the total undergraduate population will remain similar to recent years,” Powell said. 

Approximately 11% of Brown’s class of 2027 admitted applicants were international students, The Herald previously reported

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From 2017 to 2021 — the years before Dartmouth's return to international need-blind admissions — 11-15% of the admitted classes consisted of international students. After the shift to universal need-blind admissions, the percentage of international students admitted in 2022 remained at 15%, the upper bound of this range. 

At Brown, President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20 has placed a large emphasis on how universal need-blind admissions will benefit the composition of the undergraduate population. 

“The University is at its very best when we welcome and support students from the widest possible range of backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints, who learn from each other on campus and generate new understandings and insights in an increasingly complex world,” Paxson said in the Jan. 25 statement announcing the admissions policy change.

Currently, the majority of international students in Brown’s undergraduate population are from China, Canada, India or South Korea.

“It’s definitely a really big step in the right direction,” Anaya Kaul ’25, who co-leads Students for Educational Equity, wrote in an email to The Herald. “Hopefully this diversifies the pool of applicants and admits which will only add to the Brown community.”

“Making Brown an affordable choice for extraordinarily talented international students from every income level is nothing short of transformational,” Paxson said in the Jan. 25 press release. 

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