Financial Aid for Ivy League Schools

The Ivy League is incredibly prestigious, and they and a few Ivy+ schools (Stanford, MIT, Caltech, UChicago) are considered the elite among top colleges. With this prestige comes a hefty price tag, however. Tuition alone at these schools surpasses $50,000 a year, and that’s before considering the cost of housing, food, books, and other needed supplies. Four years of school can set families back $250,000 or more.

These schools realize that this is more than many students and families can handle, and many have generous financial aid packages. Unlike most colleges, however, the majority or entirety of the financial aid they offer is need-based. In this article, we’ll go through the financial aid offerings of these schools, who qualifies, and how to apply. 

CSS Profile, FAFSA, and IDOC

To apply for financial aid at any of these schools, you will need to complete the CSS Profile and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You can learn more about completing these in our article on financial aid. The College Board runs a secure document transfer service that many colleges use as well. This is called the Institutional Document Service (IDOC) and allows you to securely send tax returns to schools. These are required by many institutions.

If you are receiving scholarships from an outside source, these also need to be reported to the school. These can impact how much aid you are awarded by schools.


Harvard only offers need-based aid, but they are very generous with it; the average family contribution after aid is only $12,000, with 20% of families paying nothing at all. Families who earn less than $65,000 per year pay nothing, while families earning less than $150,000 pay 0-10% of the listed tuition cost; those earning more pay more proportionally. This covers both tuition and other expenses associated with the school.

The school also takes into account any special circumstances your family has, such as changes in the financial situation from year to year, other children in college, or loss of income. 

To apply for financial aid, you must complete the CSS Profile and FAFSA, as well as directly submit copies of your tax returns to Harvard. This is explained on their website. All students are considered for aid, and financial need does not impact admissions decisions. The deadline for submitting these forms depends on when you apply.


Yale only offers need-based scholarships; they do not grant financial aid based on merit. Families who earn less than $65,000 per year pay nothing, and 64% of all students receive some amount of financial aid. Families earning up to $250,000 per year can qualify for need-based aid. Loans are not included or considered in financial aid awards, and 84% of students graduate entirely debt free.

Financial aid covers not just tuition, but other expenses, including housing, meals, and books. You are required to submit signed copies of your tax returns to the school in addition to completing the CSS Profile and FAFSA. Deadlines depend on when you apply to the school.


Columbia only offers need-based aid and does not award scholarships for merit. They are need-blind for domestic students and cover full demonstrated financial need. Families earning under $60,000 per year pay nothing, and families earning up to $100,000 automatically qualify for some aid. There are no hard income cutoffs when considering financial aid awards for students. Financial aid only comes in the form of grants or work-study; loans are not included or considered in awards.

To apply for financial aid, you need to submit the CSS Profile, FAFSA, and copies of your tax returns. The deadlines for financial aid applications depend on when you applied to the school.


Cornell only offers awards based on need, not on merit. The school has pledged to meet the financial need of all New York residents, with the expected family contribution based on income. Families earning below $60,000 per year pay nothing and are not expected to take out loans. Families earning more than this do have loans included in financial aid calculations. Students from around the country also have all financial needs met, though financial aid for international students is limited based on availability. The total cost of education also varies based on which undergraduate school you are attending, though aid is all handled centrally.

To apply for aid, you must complete the CSS Profile, FAFSA, and submit tax returns to Cornell. Deadlines vary based on when you apply.


Dartmouth offers need-based financial aid to all students but does not offer any merit aid. They have pledged to meet the full financial need of all students. Families earning less than $65,000 will pay nothing, families earning $125,000 or less will have at least the cost of tuition covered in full, though not necessarily other costs associated with attending. There is no hard cap on aid based on income; each family’s circumstances are weighed when determining aid awards. Loans are only included in financial aid awards for families earning more than $65,000 per year.

To apply for aid, you must complete the CSS Profile, FAFSA, and submit tax returns to Dartmouth. Deadlines vary based on when you applied.


Penn only awards need-based financial aid and does not give grants for merit. They are committed to meeting all demonstrated financial needs. Families earning less than $65,000 per year have all costs covered, and families earning less than $140,000 per year have at least tuition expenses covered. Penn does expect students to contribute to their own education, with the money they earn during the summer. Loans are sometimes included in financial aid awards.

Students who are of exceptional high financial need gain access to additional resources. Families earning less than $65,000 per year, or who have expected contributions of $4,500 per year or less may take advantage of these resources.

Students must apply for financial aid by submitting the CSS Profile and FAFSA, and by submitting tax forms. Penn has its own document submission form for tax returns and does not use IDOC.


Caltech only offers need-based aid and does not grant scholarships based on merit. They are committed to meeting all demonstrated needs; each family’s situation is evaluated individually to determine what contribution (if any) they are expected to make. Students are also expected to contribute to their educational funding, with earnings from work over the summer or during the school year. Loans are part of financial aid award packages.

To apply for aid, you must complete the CSS Profile, FAFSA, and submit tax returns to Caltech. Deadlines vary based on when you apply.


MIT only offers need-based aid and does not grant financial aid based on merit. MIT meets all demonstrated financial need and admits students without considering their ability to pay. Each family’s expected contribution is determined, and grant aid is used to make up the difference. Loans are used to subsidize other financial aid offered.

To apply for aid, you must complete the CSS Profile, FAFSA, and submit tax returns to MIT using IDOC. Deadlines vary based on when you applied.


Stanford only offers need-based aid and does not grant aid based on merit. Stanford is committed to meeting all demonstrated financial needs. Families earning less than $75,000 per year are not expected to contribute anything, and families earning less than $150,000 have their full cost of tuition covered. Families with an income above this may still qualify for aid, especially if they have multiple children attending college. Students are expected to contribute to their own educational funding, both through summer earnings and through work-study programs on campus. Loans are not a normal part of aid awards but may be taken out if students do not want to participate in work-study programs.

To apply for aid, you must submit the CSS Profile and FAFSA. You must also submit tax returns, though Stanford has their own portal for doing so, and does not use IDOC.


UChicago awards both need-based and merit-based aid. They are committed to covering all demonstrated financial needs from students. Families earning less than $60,000 per year have all expenses covered, and those earning less than $125,000 per year have tuition fully covered. Families earning more than this may still qualify for need-based aid. Families earning less than $125,000 per year do not need to take out loans as part of their financial aid package. Work-study is sometimes included as part of an aid award.

All students who apply to UChicago are automatically considered for merit-based aid, with no additional documents necessary. To apply for need-based aid, you need to submit the CSS Profile and FAFSA. You must submit tax forms as well, using UChicago’s own portal, rather than IDOC.

Final Thoughts

All of these schools are very expensive, but all also offer a great deal of financial aid. We recommend applying for financial aid at the same time as you submit your college applications. This way, you can compare financial aid offers when deciding which school you should attend. While we have only described a few elite schools here, you can find this same information on the website of any college you apply to; both who is eligible for financial aid, and the documents you need to qualify.

If you want help choosing the best schools to maximize your chances of financial aid, or want advice on some other aspect of admissions, schedule a free consultation with us. We advise students on every facet of college admissions and are eager to help you achieve your educational dreams.

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