Is It Selfish to Wait Until the Deadline to Make a College Choice?


I am trying to make a decision on which school to attend. I have big scholarship offers from USC and NYU and also got into Princeton, Georgetown and Columbia, as well as three other schools. My friends keep nagging me that I need to decide soon because if I don't take the USC/NYU scholarships, "those could go to someone else and I should free them up." And then they also say if I decline Princeton, Georgetown or Columbia, someone could get off the waitlist once I "give up my spot." Is that actually how it works? Am I hoarding spots and scholarships? Or does it not work that way?

Congratulations on all your good news, although — as you've discovered — it brings with it tough choices. But don't feel pressured to choose a college before the deadline if you don't feel ready yet. Admission officials have varying policies and timelines when it comes to offering waitlist acceptances or "recycled" scholarships. Often, colleges hang on until after May 1, when all of their admitted students have responded, before deciding if there are spaces in the class for wait-listed applicants, which students will get these spots, and whether those who were not initially given a large merit award will be offered one. And this year, due to the closings and confusion spawned by the COVID-19 pandemic, some schools have extended the deadline to June 1 or beyond, and admission officers can't rely on past statistics to estimate how many accepted students will enroll, which may affect how and when they proceed with waitlist and scholarship verdicts.

So ... if you are already sure that there are colleges that have admitted you that you definitely will not attend, then you can help out the admission folks by letting them know as soon as possible. But if you aren't ready to make a final choice, don't feel guilty ... especially right now when there are so many question marks about future family finances, and even about whether college campuses will be open in the fall.

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

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