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Can Schools REQUIRE that you sign something before May 1?


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I'd always been told the answer was an emphatic NO (unless you applied with a binding early decision, of course).

A question for a friend:

Her kid was granted a large scholarship at a public university. They sent scholarship acceptance paperwork that says needs to be signed by something like April 15th. The paperwork says something like "by signing this document, I am demonstrating my commitment to attend University XYZ."

But - kid hasn't fully decided yet. He has another offer that he's considering. He is visiting both campuses next week for the first time to decide. He will be at University XYZ visiting on the 15th and will head to University ABC that weekend and visiting on Monday (18th) and wants (understandably) a few days to make a decision.

So - can university XYZ demand he sign the scholarship document by April 15th or forfeit the money? If he signs it - is he committing to that university? He doesn't have to pay an enrollment deposit at that time or anything.

University ABC says he doesn't have to sign a thing until May 1.

I'm sure they want this signed so that, if he doesn't accept it, they can pass it along to one of the students who was not awarded this $$ - it is a lot of $$, after all. But - he doesn't want to sign something that says he is committed to attend that university when he isn't yet truly committed.

Anyone know what to do in this situation? I'm assuming he signs it - and worst case scenario, he "de-commits" if he decides to go with the other school. But, with the wording on the document, this feels wrong somehow?

Thank you!!

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Short answer is yes, colleges can use incentives to encourage earlier commitments. In this case, his admission might still be available until May 1, but his scholarship might not be.

He should contact the school immediately, explain he is visiting schools that admitted him and ask for an extension to this deadline without losing the scholarship. But be prepared for them to say no. 

Depending on the phrasing, there may be little consequence to accepting the scholarship and then declining it shortly after. However, he should consider that the school might not reissue the funds to another student if he chooses not to enroll. 

 

Longer answer 

The May 1 national commitment date was in the ethical guidelines for NACAC, the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, an organization that college admissions reps, school counselors, and independent counselors can join. Many American colleges are part of NACAC and agreed to allow students until May 1 to commit and to not try to recruit students to their college once they had committed. 

A few years ago, the US Department of Justice started investigating NACAC's guidelines as restraint of trade. In 2019, NACAC made changes to the guidelines and also moved from requiring adherence as part of membership to suggesting it with no enforcement. 

That said, there have long been ways colleges could encourage earlier commitments, even under the old guidelines. Early decision is one example. Priority for housing, at schools where some dorms are preferred or where housing isn't guaranteed is another. Priority pick of orientation dates might be an incentive, especially if class registration happens during orientation. 

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Keep in mind when you use the common app and I'm sure many/most other applications have similar wording you are signing off to committing to 1 school.  If you need an extension, I would call and explain the situation to admissions.  Negotiating financial offers may get you an extension too but you need to ask for it.  This seems like a reasonable ask.  But it's also understandable that a school would want an answer ASAP on a highly competitive scholarship they could pass along to another highly desirable candidate.

I do know someone who had an admissions offer revoked because they didn't quite follow this.  Schools can and do cross check and consider this an ethics breach.  I'm sure people do squeak through some situations like this without it being discovered.   But I personally wouldn't be comfortable trying to sneak it through without talking to the school

Quote
  • I affirm that I will send an enrollment deposit (or equivalent) to only one institution; sending multiple deposits (or equivalent) may result in the withdrawal of my admission offers from all institutions. [Note: students may send an enrollment deposit (or equivalent) to a second institution where they have been admitted from the waitlist, provided that they inform the first institution that they will no longer be enrolling.]

https://www.commonapp.org/application-affirmations

 

Edited by catz
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On 4/11/2022 at 5:15 PM, catz said:

Keep in mind when you use the common app and I'm sure many/most other applications have similar wording you are signing off to committing to 1 school.  If you need an extension, I would call and explain the situation to admissions.  Negotiating financial offers may get you an extension too but you need to ask for it.  This seems like a reasonable ask.  But it's also understandable that a school would want an answer ASAP on a highly competitive scholarship they could pass along to another highly desirable candidate.

I do know someone who had an admissions offer revoked because they didn't quite follow this.  Schools can and do cross check and consider this an ethics breach.  I'm sure people do squeak through some situations like this without it being discovered.   But I personally wouldn't be comfortable trying to sneak it through without talking to the school

https://www.commonapp.org/application-affirmations

 

That’s interesting. We never ended up needing to use the common app, but I thought the whole point of it was so that you could fill out one application for more than one school. What’s the point of having a common app if you can only use it once?

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Just now, MerryAtHope said:

That’s interesting. We never ended up needing to use the common app, but I thought the whole point of it was so that you could fill out one application for more than one school. What’s the point of having a common app if you can only use it once?

You can apply to as many schools as you want with the common app.  I think my kid applied to like 11 or 12  all through the common app.  When you use the common app though, at decision time you are agreeing to only COMMIT to one school.  For many schools the committment comes with a deposit, a sign off, etc.  

Depositing at multiple schools is considered unethical by many schools and can lead to your offer being revoked.

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5 hours ago, catz said:

You can apply to as many schools as you want with the common app.  I think my kid applied to like 11 or 12  all through the common app.  When you use the common app though, at decision time you are agreeing to only COMMIT to one school.  For many schools the committment comes with a deposit, a sign off, etc.  

Depositing at multiple schools is considered unethical by many schools and can lead to your offer being revoked.

Oops, I see I misread! Thanks for clarifying!

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