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What Happens to Students Who Back Out of Early Decision Offers

Monday, March 05, 2018

Buyer's remorse is a real phenomenon.  It's experienced when a sought-after object or goal that once beckoned brightly begins to tarnish once attained.  Such is the case when a student applies to college through a binding Early Decision (ED) plan and subsequently begins to develop second thoughts around the acceptance.

Although some colleges afford an admissions advantage to students who apply during the early round, with some schools filling close to half the freshman class through the ED pool, an early decision approach requires a clear commitment from the student and their family to attend if the student is admitted.  Students who are in a position to post applications that reflect their best or most developed high school achievements and are able to readily afford tutiton regardless of financial aid awards are candidates to consider ED.

For some, what may seem like a great idea during the fever pitch of an intense application season can turn into an "uh-oh, what did I do?" moment if the admissions decision is a "yes" and the student begins to develop second thoughts.

Such is why entering into an ED agreement is not to be taken lightly.  Reality being what it is, there are instances when a student simply has a change of heart.  More commonly, the family finds the school's financial aid package does not adequately address the family's demonstrated needBacking out of an ED acceptance is hugely frowned upon by not only the college but also the high school guidance department.  

Once a student signs off on an ED agreement, so does the high school counselor.  Pulling out of an ED acceptance can make the counselor appear negatively in the eyes of the college admissions office, thereby creating lingering consequences for current or future students applying to that college.

Other consequences may affect the student directly, depending on the spurned school. Some colleges will actually cross-check the names of the ED acceptees with schools of a similar ilk, examining if students had unethically applied to more than one ED college or did not follow other aspects of the ED policy.  In contrast, other schools simply won't care that much, determining that if a student does not want to attend that school, for whatever reason, then they should not do so. 

Ultimately, students should choose carefully and wisely and do nothing to compromise their acceptances.   READ MORE

Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and can be reached via

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