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Articles / Applying to College / If My Financial Aid Appeal is Successful, Am I Obligated to Enroll?

If My Financial Aid Appeal is Successful, Am I Obligated to Enroll?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | May 4, 2020
If My Financial Aid Appeal is Successful, Am I Obligated to Enroll?

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I appealed a financial aid offer at Michigan (I'm out of state) because my father lost his job two weeks ago. In my appeal, I told them if the money was right, I would "definitely" attend Michigan. This is the best school I got into and I truly believed this when I wrote it. I got a phone call on Friday saying I've been accepted off the waitlist at Princeton. In previous years, Princeton has been known for not taking people from the waitlist so I never expected this to happen. Of course, within 10 minutes of that call, Michigan came through with the money I needed. Do I now need to enroll at Michigan since I told them I would definitely attend if the money was right, and they made the money right? Or can I accept the offer from Princeton? I don't yet have Princeton's financial offer but they are known for meeting full need so I'm asking now as I anticipate that they will come through with a good aid package.


You certainly have some enviable options, and you are not obligated to take the one from Michigan if you prefer Princeton. However, because your financial circumstances have changed since you applied, have you notified Princeton of this? If not, the aid package that Princeton offers initially may not be adequate until you appeal, just as you did with Michigan. Of course, as you've noted, Princeton is renowned for generosity.

When you say "no thanks" to Michigan, point out that you were completely sincere when you'd claimed you would attend if your aid appeal was successful but then you were blindsided by the good news from the Princeton waitlist.

This year, admission and financial aid officials are steeling themselves for unprecedented numbers of withdrawn commitments, even from students who have already pledged true love and submitted enrollment deposits. And even in "normal" times, saying "Yes" to one college and then — after a waitlist acceptance elsewhere--"Never Mind," is Standard Operating Procedure. So you have no tiger by the tail here. That is, it's fine to grab the Princeton offer, but do thank Michigan profusely for their extra consideration. And you'll probably be bringing happiness to some other student who can't wait to be a Wolverine.

About the Ask the Dean Column

Sally Rubenstone is a veteran of the college admissions process and is the co-author of three books covering admissions. She worked as a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years and has also served as an independent college counselor, in addition to working as a senior advisor at College Confidential since 2002. If you'd like to submit a question to The Dean, please email us at editorial@collegeconfidential.com.

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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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