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Articles / Applying to College / When And How to Say No to Colleges That Said Yes
Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Jan. 9, 2019

When And How to Say No to Colleges That Said Yes

When And How to Say No to Colleges That Said Yes
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I applied to Kent State and was accepted with an offer of merit money. I also got into my first choice and plan to go there. I would like to tell Kent State I'm not coming so they can give the money to someone else. My mother said to wait because Kent State might offer more the longer I wait. My question is, is my mother right? And if not, how do I tell KSU (and any other college I end up getting into) that I don't want to attend?

Congratulations on your acceptances. It's very kind of you to think of the needs of other students who have applied to Kent State, and -- if you will definitely not attend -- it would be nice of you to inform the school promptly, although you are not obligated to do so until May 1. However, if you think that you MIGHT enroll at Kent State if you are offered more money, it will be necessary for you to actively appeal your merit aid award. Kent State will not automatically raise your merit scholarship if you wait to reply to the offer. You will need to request additional funding, which you will probably not get ... but you might if you are an especially desirable candidate or if you can provide reasons why the higher merit grant is necessary for you to enroll.


Therefore, your next step should be to discuss finances with your mom. Is she worried that your first-choice college is too expensive? Does she feel that Kent State is a more affordable choice, especially if you successfully appeal your merit scholarship? If so, then you should contact Kent State to pursue the appeal. On the other hand, if you are certain you will not choose Kent State — even after a successful aid appeal — then it considerate to decline the offer of admission and scholarship right away.

Whenever you receive a college acceptance, you will be also told how to accept your offer. Most colleges will provide a form to return or a web portal where you can let them know that you will enroll. Some colleges will also expect you to tell them if you won't enroll, while others will simply assume that any student who didn't say yes by May 1 will not be showing up in September. However, “The Dean" feels that it's appropriate to provide every admission office with your final verdict, whether you'll be attending or not. So when a college admits you and you plan to go elsewhere, you should contact the admission office to say that you won't be enrolling but that you are grateful for the acceptance (and for the scholarship, where offered). In addition, the college folks are always eager to know where their accepted students will be heading ... and why ... although you are certainly not obligated to include this information.

Even when you turn down a college that accepted you, it can't hurt to be polite and to leave a door open in case your number-one college doesn't work out and you decide to take a second look later on.

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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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