Online Courses and Need-Blind vs Need-Aware Colleges for Parents of Gen Z Students

As a person who has coached Gen X and Y (Millennial) parents and Gen Y and Gen Z students, I have noticed changes in my fifteen years of college Essay Coaching.  Gen Z students are more interested in learning on their own, through social media and sites like,  Khan Academy, and of course that old standard, Youtube.

In recent months, more institutions and students are thinking of ways to increase learning opportunities outside the classroom. Taking a free online course to explore a passion may also end up being helpful to students who will soon be writing their college essays.   For example, writing a story in your essay that shows how and why you took an online class can set you apart from other students.

[See the new online course from Essay Coaching:  “How to Use April, 2020 to Start Your College or Grad School Application Essay“]

How else are Gen Z students learning differently?  The New York Times inspired this blog posting with an insert called “Educating Generation Z.

What do you see besides a “Z” in the New York Times cover art?

Question:  Did you see the two pencils in the image?

I confess I did not, and neither did my husband.  But I bet you do now. 🙂

The artist, Juan Carlos Pagan, said the humble number #2 inspired him.

Are you in Gen Z? You are this gen if you were born between:

Your Generation Your Birthyear
Baby Boomer 1946-1964
Gen X 1965-1980
Gen Y (AKA Millennial) 1981-1996
Gen Z 1997- mid 2010s
Generation Alpha mid 2010s to mid to late 2020s

One example of taking initiative through online courses was when a Gen Z student recently inspired herself to read more because she saw books next to her bed that were not getting read. She turned me on to this excellent video, “How to Read More Books” by Max Joseph.

The “Tuition Gap” in Need-Blind vs. Need-Aware Colleges

Gen Z students will face the most severe “tuition gap” of all of the generations, as the New York Times discusses in “So You Got Financial Aid for College. But How Do You Pay for the Rest of It?”  This article is particularly relevant for students interested in applying to University of Michigan, who see this guarantee:


The “Go Blue Guarantee” is a good example of how the schools handle the “Tuition Gap.”

Three Ways That Colleges Offer Financial Aid

  1. Some need-blind schools pledge to meet all of a student’s full financial need.
  2. Some need-blind schools do not meet all of a student’s full financial need.
  3. Need-aware schools consider your ability to pay as part of their acceptance decision.

Facts to know about Need Blind vs. Need Aware:

The NY Times says, “Until the early 1990s, the ethics code for the national association that represents college admissions officers required schools to not only admit students without regard to financial need but also pledge to meet a student’s full financial need.”  Those are the schools mentioned in #1, above:  Need-blind schools who pledged to meet all student’s full financial need.

Unfortunately, the association has changed its code. According to the NY Times article, “Today, fewer than 60 colleges still claim to both be need-blind in admissions and meet full need.”

Curious to see which schools are still in category 1 above, and pledge to meet all student’s financial need?  You can see that list here!

The University of Michigan fits into category 1 for in-state U.S. applicants.

Home from school? This might be a good time to talk with your teen about college applications.


But as the chart above shows, sit down, and have a face-to-face chat with your teen.  It will benefit you both.

Need more assistance with writing your college application essay?  Check out the free Essay Coaching quizzes here.  Would you like to work with a principled, honest, award-winning writer who helps businesses, authors and students tell their story in a compelling, meaningful way?  Write Debbie Merion:

Millennials and Gen Z chart from Deloitte