Need-Aware versus Need-Blind are terms you may hear about when researching the generosity of colleges and universities. Some people make "need-aware" colleges out to be bad guys, and tout "need-blind" colleges as the only ones you want to pursue. Let's blow the dust away from these misunderstood terms.
Need-Aware means the school may take the student's financial resources into consideration when debating whether or not to invite the student to join the university. In other words, the admissions department has access to the financial aid department's information.
Need-Blind means the school does not take the student's financial resources into consideration when debating whether or not to invite the student to join the university. The admissions department does not have access to the financial aid department's information.
At first glance, most people assume that "need-blind" schools are more "fair". Because they make their admissions decision solely upon the student's performance information in their file (supposedly), they may be considered more egalitarian.
However, consider the following example. Two similar, wait-listed students are awaiting the decision of admission into Big State University. Both students have similar GPA and standardized test scores. The only difference between the two is one has a very high EFC and the resources to pay for the schools costs themselves, the other has very limited means and needs substantial financial help. Keep in mind, these students are on the wait list. This means it is late in the admissions process, and therefore much of the school's financial resources have already been assigned to other students who had better academics and were not wait listed. So should the school offer one of the very few remaining slots to a student they know can pay for it without financial help, or should they offer the slot to the student who requires financial help knowing they do not have the help to give?
This is likely the only time a student will encounter the effects of a need-aware admissions policy. Under these circumstances, need-awareness makes perfect sense.
If you have a sound college selection strategy, need-aware or need-blind policies will have little to no effect on you. They are really a non-issue.