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Articles / Applying to College / My Son Changed His Mind -- Can He Attend a College He Already Declined?

May 28, 2019

My Son Changed His Mind -- Can He Attend a College He Already Declined?

My Son Changed His Mind -- Can He Attend a College He Already Declined?
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My son deposited at a college back in April but now he is interested in attending one of the schools he already declined. I understand he can call and ask if they still have room, but I am wondering how best to approach that.

Your son needs to act on this right away, of course. But before he does anything else, he can make a quick check of the National Association for College Admission Counseling's "Options for Qualified Students" list.


Here, he may be able to find out if the college he now wants to attend is still accepting freshmen. If this school's name is on the list, there's an excellent chance that your son can enroll (but with the understanding that you'll lose the deposit you made in April). However, if the school is NOT on this list, that isn't an automatic deal-breaker. For starters, not every college provides vacancy information to NACAC. Moreover, even if this institution isn't officially seeking additional freshmen, it's possible that they might still consider an applicant who was already accepted. In any case, it's worthwhile for your son to start the process with some inkling of what to expect, especially if his target school IS on the NACAC roster.

His next step should be to telephone the admission office at this college and ask to speak to his regional representative. (The regional rep is the staff member who oversees all applicants from your son's high school.) If his regional rep isn't available (and won't be available later in the day), he can briefly explain his situation and ask to speak to a different admission officer. However, he should not accept a verdict from the receptionist who's answered the phone and who may simply say, "Our deadline has passed and our applications are closed." Although receptionists are often as much on the ball -- and in the loop -- as anyone else in the office, it's still important that he discusses his plan with someone who has actual decision-making power.

If your son does speak to his regional rep and is told that there is not room for him in the freshman class, then it's unlikely that he'll get better news if he tries to appeal this decision. But if he is told no by another staff member, he can take a final shot and email his regional rep, who's probably more familiar with his candidacy, to plead his case. He should be prepared to explain why he didn't choose this school when he had the opportunity to do so several weeks ago and, above all, why he's changed his mind. The more specific he can be, the better. He certainly doesn't want to come off as indecisive and raise suspicions that, if admitted, he might change his mind yet again.

Should your son decide that he really doesn't want to be at the college where's he's committed, he could consider a gap year or even a January start at this second school. Thus, if he's told today that the freshman class is full, he can propose these other options if they suit him. It's also conceivable that the freshman class is currently full but there might be spaces that open up in August. If your son is willing to wait to find out, he should say so.

Again, if your son is certain that he wants to bypass the college that he'd planned to attend and enroll at this other one, he needs to be willing to sacrifice the deposit you already paid and he needs to act NOW!

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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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