If My Financial Aid Appeal is Successful, Am I Obligated to Enroll?
I appealed a financial aid offer at Michigan (I'm out of state) because my father lost his job two weeks ago. In my appeal, I told them if the money was right, I would "definitely" attend Michigan. This is the best school I got into and I truly believed this when I wrote it. I got a phone call on Friday saying I've been accepted off the waitlist at Princeton. In previous years, Princeton has been known for not taking people from the waitlist so I never expected this to happen. Of course, within 10 minutes of that call, Michigan came through with the money I needed. Do I now need to enroll at Michigan since I told them I would definitely attend if the money was right, and they made the money right? Or can I accept the offer from Princeton? I don't yet have Princeton's financial offer but they are known for meeting full need so I'm asking now as I anticipate that they will come through with a good aid package.
You certainly have some enviable options, and you are not obligated to take the one from Michigan if you prefer Princeton. However, because your financial circumstances have changed since you applied, have you notified Princeton of this? If not, the aid package that Princeton offers initially may not be adequate until you appeal, just as you did with Michigan. Of course, as you've noted, Princeton is renowned for generosity.
When you say "no thanks" to Michigan, point out that you were completely sincere when you'd claimed you would attend if your aid appeal was successful but then you were blindsided by the good news from the Princeton waitlist.
This year, admission and financial aid officials are steeling themselves for unprecedented numbers of withdrawn commitments, even from students who have already pledged true love and submitted enrollment deposits. And even in "normal" times, saying "Yes" to one college and then — after a waitlist acceptance elsewhere--"Never Mind," is Standard Operating Procedure. So you have no tiger by the tail here. That is, it's fine to grab the Princeton offer, but do thank Michigan profusely for their extra consideration. And you'll probably be bringing happiness to some other student who can't wait to be a Wolverine.
About the Ask the Dean Column
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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