June 2, 2020
Back in January, I was accepted at the University of North Carolina and put on a waitlist at Georgia Tech. UNC was my first choice, so I sent a deposit and enrolled for housing and everything. This was before the coronavirus situation blew up. I just learned I have been admitted off the waitlist at Georgia Tech. I live in Georgia and so the cost of GT is much lower than UNC would be. My parents now want me to commit to GT because of the financial situation with everything going on right now. Is there an issue with me pulling my UNC commitment at this point? Or are they used to this with waitlist acceptances? Not sure of the ethics or legality involved here.
It's completely reasonable to withdraw from a college after making a commitment when admitted to another school from a waitlist. Admission officials expect this every year, but this year they anticipate even more changes than usual due to the pandemic. Many students, like you, will be revising their college plans this spring and summer in the wake of virus-related financial concerns.
So you don't have to worry about ethics or legality because you're completely in the clear. Typically, too, if a committed student pulls out before May 1, the enrollment deposit will be returned, but you may have to stay on top of that to make it happen. In theory, housing deposits should be refunded as well, if the request arrives before May 1, but "The Dean" has seen housing departments — especially at large universities — that refute this. So prepare to be persistent if you've already sent in money to reserve a room on campus. Of course, with all the uncertainties that COVID-19 has brought, it's likely that some colleges will be more flexible than ever before, while others may be nearly impossible to contact.
Meanwhile, congratulations on your acceptances at both of these sought-after schools. Even if Georgia Tech wasn't your first choice, it's certainly a fine and enviable one!
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 email@example.com.
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