My counselor just told me that if I'm accepted at my Early Decision (ED) school that I have to withdraw my other applications. Is that true? I applied to UNC and Georgia Tech and won't hear from those until January. I'd sort of like to see them through and find out if they would have accepted me. Do I really have to withdraw the other applications? If so, how do I do it?
If you are admitted via Early DECISION (and not via Early ACTION) then you have to commit to your ED school right away. You cannot wait for verdicts from UNC and Georgia Tech. You must withdraw those applications (and any others you may have submitted) as soon as you receive an ED acceptance letter. You can do this by emailing those colleges and explaining that you are terminating your application due to an Early Decision acceptance elsewhere. As a courtesy, you can even include where you've been accepted because admission officials find it helpful to know who their "competitors" are. Make sure you get a reply that acknowledges that your withdrawal was received.
BUT ... if you also applied for financial aid at your ED college, and the amount you are offered is not sufficient, then you can appeal the aid award and keep those other applications active until your appeal is resolved. (You and your family get to decide if the aid package is suitable, even if the college folks insist that it is.) It's possible that the appeals process won't be over by the time you hear from other colleges. If that's the case, you may still have the option to say no to your ED school and enroll at one of those places, as long as the appeal hasn't yet been settled. Most appeals, however, are settled by mid-January.
If you did not apply for financial aid, and you are admitted via ED, then you need to cancel those other applications immediately. So if you're having second thoughts about making a binding ED commitment, you should contact your ED college today and ask to be switched to the Regular Decision pool. The college will want this request made in writing (email is probably fine) and may ask for confirmation from your school counselor, too. But you should get the ball rolling by telephone now, if you decide to make the switch.
Keep in mind, however, that Early Decision usually provides a significant boost in admission odds that Regular Decision does not. Nonetheless, if you're getting cold feet about attending your ED college, you should make the switch anyway. But if it's mostly a question of curiosity about potential UNC and Georgia Tech outcomes, then you will just have to live with the uncertainty, and consider them among life's many "roads not taken."
Good luck whatever you decide.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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