By Patrick O'Connor. Ph.D
College decisions have already started coming out. Once again, we’re looking at record numbers of applications, and once again, Harvard, Princeton, Rose-Hulman, Knox and most every other college didn’t spend the winter buying an extra 50 acres and tricking it out with new dorms to double their class size—so there will be more rejections and waitlists than ever as well.
There’s ample advice counselors can use to console students who weren’t admitted and to encourage students who were placed on waiting lists, but there’s another stealth group out there who just won’t be getting a lot of love—the student who has so many admission offers, they just can’t make up their mind.
On the one hand, this is easy to understand; Meryl Streep wouldn’t have garnered a lot of empathy if her acceptance speech had gone something like “Wow, a third Oscar? Just where am I going to put this?” On the other hand, it’s important to support these students, not only because they truly need strong guidance right now, but because their problem could easily become everyone’s problem if they decide the best thing to do is to put deposits in at every college that accepted them, then decide in August.
Just to review the ground rules, students have until May 1 to place an enrollment deposit at one, and only one, college. They don’t necessarily have to tell their other colleges they aren’t coming, but they can only tell one college they are coming, and they do that by submitting a (mostly) non-refundable deposit. The reasoning here is simple—colleges need to build budgets, hire faculty, design schedules, and order enough mystery meat to make sure they can deliver on all the promises they’ve made students in those glossy brochures.
Students and parents who decide May 1st is just too soon often deposit at more than one college—either they just do see the rush, they think it’s unfair, or they don’t understand what harm it does…
…until they get to the one college they attend. There, they discover their own college has had, oh, say, 20 students call admissions the day before classes begin to let them know they aren’t coming. Because of these double depositors, the college has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue, and has financial aid that is going unused. This also means students who were in the advertised 20 student seminar classes are thrust into 30 student seminars at the last minute, leading to schedule changes, unhappy students, and parents who are now consulting attorneys for breach of contract on the school’s part—even though they themselves may have double deposited at a number of colleges as well.
The moral of the story is to tell all students and parents not to do this, and to say this an awful lot of times in a number of ways between now and May 1. If they applied on Common Application, they signed a pledge they wouldn’t do this, and if colleges find out a student is playing them against one another (and this happens), the student will have plenty of free time on their hands come fall.
College is the main thing they’ve been thinking about for the last eight months, and they still have 45 days before an answer is due. By being available to talk with them, and with a few stern e-mail reminders to parents, good choices can be made by May 1 with everyone’s future looking bright, both now and in August.