Op-Ed: Plan for need-blind admissions for international students

March 9, 2018, 5:00 a.m.

“My best friend decided not to apply to Stanford because he was FLI (First Generation and Low-Income) and was concerned about not getting the aid the he needed. He was the top of my class, a second generation refugee and a brilliant mind.”

“My parents went through a separation and I went to the financial aid office […] They told me that because I didn’t apply for financial aid when I applied to Stanford, I cannot ask for aid at any point in my Stanford career. ‘Why not get a student loan?’[…] So now I’m just taking 20 units each quarter and working 20 hours a week.”

These are some of the real stories international students have shared about their experience with both the need-based policy Stanford Admissions holds toward international students and financial aid at Stanford. As a coalition of Stanford students advocating for issues pertaining to financial aid for both hopeful and current Stanford students, our demands are simple: we want the University to prioritize changing its need-based undergraduate admissions policy for international students to one that is need-blind in its long range planning process, and make it eligible for undergraduate international students to change their financial aid status throughout their undergraduate career in response to changes in financial capacities.

Stanford Undergraduate Admission states that “[international students’] request for financial aid will be a factor in [their] admission evaluation.” This means that a lot of international hopefuls are denied admission because of their financial needs. Moreover, Undergraduate Admissions states that if international applicants choose not to apply for financial aid, they “are not eligible to apply for financial aid at any time during their four years at Stanford”.

There lies a huge contradiction when the University claims it both supports diversity and inclusion and denies accessibility and fairness in their admission and financial aid awarding process. International students, with their own stories and backgrounds, contribute to diverse discourse, academic excellence and innovations on campus, just as all other members do. However, for low-income and middle-income students in a lot of parts of the world, without financial aid, Stanford will be an impossible dream.

Furthermore, the need dependent admission process not only bars a lot of international students in need of financial support from applying, but also puts pressure on those who do apply to conceal their financial hardship. Many international applicants either do not anticipate the need for financial aid when they apply, or decide not to apply for financial aid in hopes of maximizing their chances of admission. After being admitted, they find themselves bearing the huge weight of financially supporting themselves throughout their Stanford career, even if their families’ financial situation deteriorate.

We have the momentum to change this status quo. Need-blind admission for international students has attracted significant attention in Stanford’s Long Range Planning White Papers. Various administrations have expressed support for this initiative. Recently, President Marc Tessier-Lavigne stated that “The issue of international students’ need-blind financial aid is not a question of why is not there, but a question of when we will get there.” We ask that the University delay no more.

Stanford has the capacity to do so; it only needs to realize the policy’s importance to the community and make it a priority. Last year, Stanford had $1.52 million in endowment per student. It is ranked as having one of the highest endowment per student ratios among the top five institutions in the US. We also note that Stanford is the school with the highest endowment per student ratio that continues not to offer need-blind admissions. Peer institutions such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton, and those with lower endowment per student ratios, such as MIT and Amherst, all changed their admission policies to become need-blind for international applicants as early as 2000.

If Stanford aspires to be the global leader in research and innovation, it needs to match its peer institutions. Otherwise, we will continue to lose the brightest international minds and talents to said institutions.

Now, we as a community are speaking up. We sent out a petition this Monday, and within the first 48 hours of its release, it has attracted more than 900 signatures from students, faculty, staff and alumni, and the number keeps growing. We are overwhelmed by the stories shared by international students, and the solidarity shown by domestic students towards our demands. If you haven’t had the chance to sign our petition, we ask you, humbly, to sign it. Make your voice heard.

Link to the Petition for Student, Staff and Faculty

Link to the Petition for Alumni


Celia Chen ‘20, ASSU Community Centers & Diversity Lead (China)

Hamzeh Daoud ‘20, Senator and Chair of Advocacy Committee (Jordan)

Janique Lee ‘20, Senator (Jamaica)

Ana Carolina Queiroz ‘20, Senator (Brazil)

Vicki Niu ‘18, ASSU Vice President (United States)

Justice Tention ‘18, ASSU President (United States)

Michal Skreta ‘21, Associate in Senate Associate Program (Poland)

Aamnah Khalid ‘20, Senator (Pakistan)

The Daily is committed to publishing a diversity of op-eds and letters to the editor. We’d love to hear your thoughts. Email letters to the editor to eic ‘at’ stanforddaily.com and op-ed submissions to opinions ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

Login or create an account

Apply to The Daily’s High School Winter Program

Deadline Extended!