Harvard Outreach Newsletter

126th Issue, February 2024

In this issue:

Introduction to financial aid at Harvard

Note: This month’s articles use the exchange rate of £1 = $1.26 current in February 2024.  It is likely to be different by the time you apply.

Almost since its foundation, Harvard College has provided financial aid to its students.  The tradition started with Anne Radcliffe, Lady Mowlson of London, who in 1643 left a bequest to help needy students admitted to Harvard College.  Since then, many other benefactors have supported students who otherwise could not afford to attend, culminating in Kenneth Griffin’s landmark $125 million donation in support of financial aid in February 2014 (the 10th anniversary of the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative, launched in 2004).  The Financial Aid Initiative was set up to ensure that all admitted students – both domestic and international – can attend Harvard regardless of their economic circumstances.

Bequest of Anne Radcliffe, Lady Mowlson of London, to establish Harvard's first endowed scholarship on 9th May 1643.

Bequest of Anne Radcliffe, Lady Mowlson of London, to establish Harvard’s first endowed scholarship on 9th May 1643.

Financial aid explained in 30 seconds

Before getting into the detail of Harvard’s Financial Aid Initiative, check out this video in which Haley Benbow ’22 explains how it works in just 30 seconds.

Play Video

How financial aid works at Harvard

The financial aid application process is essentially the same for all students – regardless of nationality or citizenship.  You will be asked to provide information about your family income and assets, outside awards, and any unusual or changed financial circumstances.  Once we have reviewed your information and determined your demonstrated need, you will be notified of your award for the coming year.  Rest assured that applying for financial aid will in no way jeopardize your chances of admission.   

The Admissions Office has two guiding principles:  

  • Need-blind admissions.  This means that admissions and financial aid are dealt with separately.  Only after the Admissions Committee has decided who it wants to admit do financial aid officers look at students’ financial aid applications and assess how much aid they need.  Your financial circumstances will never affect your chance of being admitted to Harvard.
  • 100% need-based aid.  Harvard is committed to meeting 100% of students’ demonstrated financial need for all four years, based on the information submitted on their financial aid applications.  

The two guiding principles mean that all admitted students automatically get access to financial aid if they need it, and the amount they receive is means-tested against their family’s income.  Financial aid officers will work closely with your family to understand your financial situation, then create a comprehensive financial aid package that accounts for the full cost of attendance, including tuition, room and board.   

Families with annual incomes of $85,000 or less (around £68,000) will not be expected to pay anything towards their child’s education at Harvard.  Families with annual incomes of between $85,000 – $150,000 (~£68,000 – £120,000) will pay anything between zero and 10% of their income towards university costs, depending on their assets and family circumstances.  Those with incomes above $150,000 will be asked to pay proportionately more than 10% depending on individual circumstances.  Any equity in the family’s main place of residence and personal pension assets are not considered in our assessment of financial need.  The aid comes in the form of grants, not loans, so it does not have to be paid back and it is therefore possible for all students to complete their degree without getting into debt.   

As the primary beneficiary of a Harvard education, all students are expected to contribute to their college expenses – currently $3,500 (around £2,820) per year.  Most students work to meet their student contribution, and jobs on campus are plentiful and varied.  Students may meet their entire financial contribution by working 10-12 hours per week during term time.  Visit our Guide to Student Employment for further information.  https://college.harvard.edu/guides/student-employment  

The numbers: 

  • 24% of families pay nothing towards their child’s Harvard education
  • 55% of students at Harvard receive financial aid
  • $13,000 (£10,500) is the average parental contribution per annum
  • 100% of demonstrated financial need is met
  • 100% of students can graduate debt-free

Step by step process for international students applying for financial aid from US colleges

This information is relevant to students in Year 12 (England & Wales), S5 (Scotland) and Year 13 (N. Ireland) who will be applying to US colleges in the autumn of 2024 for entry in 2025.

1. Identify colleges that provide financial aid for international applicants:

When researching the US college system to decide where you want to apply, make sure you investigate financial aid early in the research process so you can identify colleges where aid is available for international applicants.  By law, every US college website must have a net price calculator or similar tool that allows prospective candidates to find out if they are eligible for financial aid, and if so, roughly how much they are likely to receive.  Use the tool on the websites of all your long-listed colleges as one way of choosing your final shortlist.  If applying to Harvard, our Net Price Calculator is user-friendly with only four sections, making it easy to estimate your likely financial aid package (see the worked examples at the end of this section).  

2. Apply for financial aid at the same time as you apply for admission,

so that any offers of admission you receive are accompanied by a financial aid offer.  That way, you can make an informed choice about whether to accept or decline any offers you receive.  The main US college application platforms (Common Application and Coalition for College) go live on 1st August each year, and financial aid platforms tend to go live on 1st October of each year.

3. Complete the necessary financial aid documents and submit the appropriate tax returns and supporting information:

You can find Harvard’s financial aid application instructions here

International applicants will need to submit the following documents: 

  • CSS Profile
  • IDOC Packet
  • The annual tax return used in your home country – for UK applicants, this will be the HMRC Tax Return
  • Other information about your family’s business interests, unusual expenses or special circumstances

(At Harvard, the deadlines for submitting these documents are 1st November for Restrictive Early Action applicants, or 1st February for Regular Decision applicants). 

4. Complete the CSS Profile:

Start by filling out the CSS Profile. This is an online financial aid application, administered by the College Board, used to determine a family’s financial need for institutional financial aid, and is suitable for both US citizens and international applicants.  It is used by about 400 colleges, universities and scholarship programs in the US, including Harvard, and allows international applicants to report financial information in their country’s currency.  To see a 30-minute video on how to complete the CSS Profile, go to the ‘International Applicants’ page of the CSS website, scroll down to ‘Resources’ and click on ‘Completing the CSS Profile as an International Student’.  On the next screen, click ‘Start’ and then enter ‘2025’ as your high school graduation year.  This will take you to the correct video.   

5. Submit your IDOC Packet:

After you have completed your CSS Profile, the next task is to submit all your financial aid documents online using the Institutional Documentation Service (IDOC).  The College Board will then provide the documents automatically to all the colleges to which you are applying.  As with the CSS Profile, the IDOC Packet is necessary both for domestic and international applicants.  To see a 14-minute video which introduces IDOC and guides you through its use, go to the IDOC Homepage,  scroll down to ‘Overview’ and click ‘Open Presentation.’  On the following page click ‘Start’ and then enter ‘2025’ as your high school graduation year.  

For Harvard Applicants:

IDOC will show a list of basic documents to be uploaded, but it is not the definitive list of what you need to submit.  Additional required documents are given below.  Gather together all of the following that apply, and submit them to IDOC.  Please do not send draft or estimated taxes.  We need the actual tax document detailing income as filed with your Government. 

  • Most recent national income tax form (HMRC Tax Return for UK applicants) for both parents.
  • Student’s tax return (if you have submitted one).
  • Business documents – if either of your parents has an interest in a business or farm, submit the latest business tax return, as well as a Business/Farm Supplement Form (found on our website or at IDOC) for each business
  • Trust or estate documents – if you or your parents are the beneficiary of an estate or trust, submit the full trust tax return and a letter explaining the contents of the trust or estate, its value, and accessibility.
  • Additional information – if you have any unusual expenses or special circumstances to share, submit an explanatory letter with the rest of your documents.

Worked examples using Harvard’s Net Price Calculator

Family 1

Typical aid package for a student from a modest income family: Income of £40,000 pa (about $50,000 at current exchange rates),  a home and £50,000 (~$63,000) in other savings/assets. 

Estimated scholarship: ~£65,366 ($81,050)  
Term-time work for student: ~£2,822 ($3,500) 
Cost to parents: zero 

Family 2

Typical aid package for a student from a middle income family: Income of £80,000 pa (about $100,000 at current exchange rates),  a home and £80,000 (~$100,000) in other savings/assets. 

Estimated scholarship: ~£62,947 ($78,050)  
Term-time work for student: ~£2,822 ($3,500) 
Cost to parents: ~£2,419 ($3,000)  

Family 3

Typical aid package for a student from a higher income family: Income of £120,000 pa (about $150,000 at current exchange rates),  a home and £160,000 (~$200,000) in other savings/assets. 

Estimated scholarship: ~£53,269 ($66,050)  
Term-time work for student: ~£2,822 ($3,500) 
Cost to parents: ~£12,097 ($15,000)  

Other US colleges that are ‘need-blind’ and provide the ‘full demonstrated need’ for international students

Amherst College  
Amherst College is ‘need blind’ with respect to admission.  Amherst will not take into account whether or not you have applied for financial aid in the admission process. The College has a comprehensive program of financial aid that provides assistance in the form of scholarships and grants, loans, and student employment; Amherst meets the full demonstrated financial need of all admitted applicants. (Amherst website)

Bowdoin College  
Beginning in July 2022, Bowdoin College is need blind for international students.  That means your family’s ability to pay is not a factor or barrier to admission.  If you require financial assistance to attend college, Bowdoin will work closely with you and your family to ensure your financial aid meets your need. (Bowdoin website)

Dartmouth College 
Dartmouth College has scholarships and loans available to international students, which includes an allowance for travel to the U.S.  We understand that your circumstances may be unique and our office will help in any way we can.  Dartmouth has expanded its longstanding need-blind admissions policy to include all international citizens, beginning with the Class of 2026. (Dartmouth website)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)  
International students are considered for aid using the same process that we use for all applicants.  We are committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated financial need for international students just as we are for domestic students. (MIT website)

Princeton University  
Princeton considers U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens alike in the admission and financial process.  In fact, Princeton is one of only a handful of schools in the country that do not limit financial aid for international undergraduates, treating international and U.S. students the same in the financial aid process. (Princeton website)

Yale College  
Yale  operates a need-blind admissions policy for all applicants, regardless of citizenship or immigration status.  Yale admits undergraduate students without regard to their ability to pay, and provides need-based financial aid awards to all admitted students on the basis of individual needs assessments.  All of Yale’s undergraduate financial aid is awarded on the basis of financial need.  There are no merit-based or academic scholarships. (Yale website)

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