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What Happens If You Are Accepted Early Decision and Change Your Mind?

If you apply Early Decision (ED) and don’t want to or can’t go to the college that accepts you, you will face a tough dilemma. Although the agreement is not legally binding, you might be unable to attend other colleges that year. The easiest solution to this problem is to avoid applying ED to any school that you are not 100% sure you want to attend. However, there are extenuating circumstances that may justify a refusal of your ED admission. Read on to find out what you should do if you are having second thoughts about your ED school.

If you haven’t already applied

If you haven’t applied to your Early Decision school and already foresee yourself having second thoughts, we advise you not to do it! You can consider applying Early Action instead, or just apply for the regular deadline. Any student applying ED to a school should be 100% sure that if they gain admission, that is the school for them. The ED option is not for students who are still shopping around or unsure of what they want in a college.

If you can’t afford their financial aid package

If a school accepted your Early Decision application, they will have sent you a financial aid award letter. Once you read this letter and consult with your family, you may realize that it is insufficient for your situation. A good first step here is to reread your FAFSA and submit any necessary corrections if you made an error. If your FAFSA is correct, you’ll want to start writing a financial aid appeal letter.

A financial aid appeal letter clarifies your financial situation with your financial aid office. The vast majority of schools review financial aid appeal letters, and although there’s no guarantee that they will revise your package, it’s definitely worth a shot. If the only thing holding you back from your dream school is an insufficient financial aid package, this can save the day. 

However, if your school does not accept your letter or revise your package, you can try looking into more student loans. You can look into both federal and private loans to help bridge your financial gap. But remember not to take out too much money in loans. If you’ve exhausted all of these options and have decided that it is not financially feasible for you, you can refuse your admission. 

If you were accepted, but have extenuating circumstances

A lot can happen in the months between college application submissions and acceptances. Some students may experience dramatic changes in their lives that could prevent them from following their initial college plans. If a family member falls ill or if a parent loses their job, you might be unable to attend school that fall. You might have to spend more time at home to help out around the house or pitch in money to the household. If this is the case, colleges are almost always understanding.

You may even be able to defer your admission to the school, so you will have a place saved for you in the next academic year. This is the best situation for most students. You’ll be able to take care of what you need to do and plan on resuming your initial plan when you can. 

Related: What to do if financial aid is not enough

If you were accepted ED, but have decided on another school

This is the trickiest situation that can arise from Early Decision. If you apply to a school Early Decision and decide on another school after being admitted, you’re in a tough spot. Although you are under no legal obligation to attend your ED school, you may face repercussions. Some colleges are in communication about incidents like these, and your ED school might inform your new desired school that you broke your ED agreement. This might lead to your new prioritized school rescinding your admission.

The rejection can also corrode trust between the college and your high school and hurt future students’ chances. Keep in mind that these consequences do not always occur, but you should take them into account as possibilities. 

And just to reiterate, if you are reading this article and have not already applied ED, you should give a lot of thought to your commitment to the school before sending in your application. You want to be sure beyond any shadow of a doubt before you commit to an ED school.

Next steps

If you haven’t applied ED to a school yet, you should use this opportunity to assess your commitment to the school. Make sure you are entirely committed, and will have no regrets should they accept you. If you have already applied and heard back, you are under more obligation to accept your decision. Unless your financial or personal situation warrants a change in your plans, you may face some consequences. These could include corroded relationships between your high school and college. They might also bar you from admission to other schools, at least for the year. 

Good luck with your decision and remember to think long and hard before sending in that ED application!

Related: Everything you need to know about ED and financial aid

Frequently asked questions about changing your mind about Early Decision

Can a college sue me for rejecting Early Decision admission?

A college cannot sue you for rejecting Early Decision admissions. However, you may face other consequences. These can include barring you from admission to other schools and hurting admissions odds for other students at your school.

Can I defer Early Decision admissions?

This varies on a school-by-school basis. If you are considering deferring an Early Decision admission, make sure to call the admissions office. You’ll want to find out the answer to this information as soon as you can in order to make an informed decision.

Can I withdraw an Early Decision application before being accepted?

You should check your application portal ASAP and contact the school to see if you can withdraw your application. The answer will vary on a school-by-school basis, but you’ll have a much better chance of withdrawing your application before you are accepted than after.