Can I Turn Down ED Offer for “Financial Aid” Reasons If I Don’t Need the Money?


Question: My dream college is MIT and I plan to apply through non-binding Early Action. But even with high SATs and grades, I'm an Asian male from the Northeast, and I know it's still a long shot. So I am thinking I will also apply Early Decision to UPenn. I think my chances are a lot better there if I'm willing to make an ED commitment. But here's my question -- if I'm super lucky and get into BOTH schools, I know that I MUST enroll at UPenn. But what if I apply for financial aid at UPenn? My family will definitely not qualify for aid, so UPenn will turn me down for financial aid, even if I'm admitted. So if I get into ONLY UPenn, I will go there. But if I am also accepted at MIT, I could tell UPenn that I can't attend for “financial reasons" since they didn't offer me any aid. Can I do that?

Yes, you can do that. But should you? It seems like you'll be setting yourself up for a boatload of bad karma if you apply for aid at Penn while knowing full well that you won't get it.

Granted, we live in an era of politicians and assorted celebrities who seem to have supplanted “Do the right thing" with “Do whatever you can get away with," and these are the role models your generation has grown up with. Moreover, you're navigating a college admission system that is stressful, confusing and even capricious ... or downright unfair. Thus, it's not surprising that gaming this system is attractive to you and to countless others your age.

Even so, “The Dean" can't endorse a strategy that involves outright deception. If you decide to apply EA to MIT and ED to Penn, you'll be “super lucky" to get good news from both, as you've already noted yourself. But if you do, then say, “Thanks but no thanks" to MIT and maybe also, “I'll see you for grad school!"


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