Binding Early Decision Commitment

Early Decision Commitment, Early Decision, Applying Early Decision

There’s a piece up on “US News & World Report” about students who violate binding Early Decision policies.

There’s a piece up on “US News & World Report” by Alexandra Pannoni entitled “What Happens to Students Who Back Out of Early Decision Offers” that we figured we’d share with our readers. It should first be noted that we have never, in over a quarter of a century of being in business, had a student back out of an Early Decision offer. When a student applies Early Decision, that student makes a binding commitment to attend that institution — with an emphasis on the word ‘binding.’ That’s the whole point of applying Early. It’s why a student’s odds of getting in are stronger in the Early round. Students show their commitment to a school and that school shows its commitment back. It’s why at so many highly selective colleges, such a major chunk of the incoming first-year class is already filled with Early candidates.

But what happens when that rare student chooses to violate the Early Decision policy, to break their word, and apply to other institutions after being admitted to a school through Early Decision? The words ‘at their own peril’ come to mind. Colleges share lists. Why would a college knowingly admit a student who applied to another college under a binding Early Decision program? Can it happen? Can schools not cross-reference? Yes. But they often do. And school counselors — who value their longstanding relationships with colleges — will quite often reveal breaches of Early Decision commitments. So to those rare students who cross their fingers and hope they’ll get away with it, we have two words for you: you’re nuts. Because you’re risking getting blacklisted.

As Pannoni writes, “The early decision agreement is not legally binding and the school wouldn’t go after the student for tuition, but there could be other consequences. If, for instance, they found out a student somehow had applied to two different places early decision, or even another early action and the student had broken the early decision agreement, [Williams College Director of Admission Richard] Nesbitt says they’d call the other schools and the student would risk losing both acceptances. It may not be that difficult for schools to determine if students are playing the system. A student’s high school guidance counselor may be aware of what the student has done and contact the school, says Nesbitt.” We could not agree more with Richard.


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