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Articles / Applying to College / Can I Turn Down ED Offer for “Financial Aid” Reasons If I Don’t Need the Money?

Oct. 8, 2018

Can I Turn Down ED Offer for “Financial Aid” Reasons If I Don’t Need the Money?

Can I Turn Down ED Offer for “Financial Aid” Reasons If I Don’t Need the Money?
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Question: My dream college is MIT and I plan to apply through non-binding Early Action. But even with high SATs and grades, I'm an Asian male from the Northeast, and I know it's still a long shot. So I am thinking I will also apply Early Decision to UPenn. I think my chances are a lot better there if I'm willing to make an ED commitment. But here's my question -- if I'm super lucky and get into BOTH schools, I know that I MUST enroll at UPenn. But what if I apply for financial aid at UPenn? My family will definitely not qualify for aid, so UPenn will turn me down for financial aid, even if I'm admitted. So if I get into ONLY UPenn, I will go there. But if I am also accepted at MIT, I could tell UPenn that I can't attend for “financial reasons" since they didn't offer me any aid. Can I do that?

Yes, you can do that. But should you? It seems like you'll be setting yourself up for a boatload of bad karma if you apply for aid at Penn while knowing full well that you won't get it.


Granted, we live in an era of politicians and assorted celebrities who seem to have supplanted “Do the right thing" with “Do whatever you can get away with," and these are the role models your generation has grown up with. Moreover, you're navigating a college admission system that is stressful, confusing and even capricious ... or downright unfair. Thus, it's not surprising that gaming this system is attractive to you and to countless others your age.

Even so, “The Dean" can't endorse a strategy that involves outright deception. If you decide to apply EA to MIT and ED to Penn, you'll be “super lucky" to get good news from both, as you've already noted yourself. But if you do, then say, “Thanks but no thanks" to MIT and maybe also, “I'll see you for grad school!"

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Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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