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

Sally_RubenstoneSally_Rubenstone CC Admissions Expert Posts: 3,921 Senior Member
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?


See https://www.collegeconfidential.com/articles/can-i-turn-down-ed-offer-for-financial-aid-reasons-if-i-dont-need-the-money

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

  • happy1happy1 Forum Champion Parents, Forum Champion Admissions Posts: 22,899 Forum Champion
    edited October 12
    I feel strongly that this would be the wrong thing to do.

    --IMO one should only apply ED if 1) the school is the applicant's absolute top choice and 2) if the applicant has no need to compare financial offers between colleges.

    --ED should be used to gain early acceptance to a top choice college that appears affordable. It is wrong to use ED as an admissions ploy to have a higher chance of acceptance to a school that isn't a top choice.

    --To turn down an ED school for financial reasons if the net price calculator shows you will be getting no aid and if your family is willing and able to pay full freight is morally wrong.

    --Read the ED agreement carefully -- are you, your parents, and your HS guidance counselor all willing to sign a binding agreement and then outright lie about financial need if you get into both schools? The plan reeks of low ethical standards.

    --On the off chance MIT and Penn find out what you did assuming two acceptances (turned down Penn ED to accept a full pay acceptance at MIT) there is a chance both offers could be rescinded.

    --Selfishly, it appears as if a number of well qualified candidates to MIT are deferred to the RD round so there is a chance you will have to accept or reject Penn before getting an answer from MIT. Do you want to put yourself in this position? https://mitadmissions.org/apply/process/stats/

    --Your turning down of Penn for financial reasons that don't exist could damage your high school's future relationship with the school and negatively impact future applicants (although I'm guessing you don't care about that).

    --Anecdotally, my S's top choice school was EA so he did not consider applying anywhere ED (he was deferred EA and later accepted). My D applied ED but spend a great deal of effort before she applied confirming in her mind that her ED school was her top choice and when accepted she attended.

    So can you?...I guess the answer is yes if your parents and guidance counselor agree to the plan and are willing to be complicit in your outright lie to get out of Penn ED.
    Should you?....absolutely not.
  • NCKrisNCKris Registered User Posts: 37 Junior Member
    No, you cannot do that. As Happy1 listed out all the reasons, what you are asking is wrong on many levels - ethically, morally and legally. Your parents, school are signing a legal contract to attend the ED school if accepted. If you already know your family income will not qualify for FA at Penn, then you cannot use financial reason for getting out of the contract.
    I understand where you are coming from, you want to reach for your dream school and also have a backup and Penn allows EA to private colleges unlike other ED schools. MIT and Penn are very very different schools. My advice is, instead of trying to optimize your chances, you should think long and hard which school appeals to you and why, and then make that decision, Are you ready to apply EA to MIT and not get in and go to your safety school ? or will you be thrilled, if you get admitted to Penn ED.
  • NCKrisNCKris Registered User Posts: 37 Junior Member
    BTW, every year, many students make this decision to forgo a chance to SCEA to HYPS and apply ED to Penn, Duke, Columbia etc. You should apply ED only if you know you will be thrilled to go that school.
  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn Super Moderator Posts: 36,531 Super Moderator
    @Sally_Rubenstone is there any way you can flag the user who asked the question so that he sees these responses? I've always wondered that!
  • Sally_RubenstoneSally_Rubenstone CC Admissions Expert Posts: 3,921 Senior Member
    @MaineLonghorn -Yes, I typically alert Ask the Dean "clients" when their question has spawned a discussion thread.
  • happy1happy1 Forum Champion Parents, Forum Champion Admissions Posts: 22,899 Forum Champion
    edited October 12
    @NCKris Penn allows EA to other colleges because of the binding nature of the ED agreement (which the OP is looking to circumvent). If an applicant is accepted to Penn they are obligated to attend (assuming affordability). Typically the colleges that limit other EA applications have SCEA (single choice early action) which is non-binding.
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 12,550 Super Moderator
    I mean, choosing to do this goes against the entire point of Early Decision. Your chances are higher in ED partly because you are willing to make a commitment. If you don't make the commitment, you're taking away the benefit that the college gets from offering ED, and they wouldn't offer ED if they didn't think they were getting some benefit from it.

    If students want to apply to college and be able to compare financial aid offers...that's what regular decision is for.

    Besides, while we use the colloquial parlance "financial reasons" here on CC, the schools' agreements often have different language that limits what you can do. For example, UPenn says "the only instance in which you could request to be released from our Early Decision binding agreement is if your financial need can’t be met," which would be pretty difficult to prove since UPenn meets 100% of financial need AND since your family is full pay. There'd have to be some extraordinary financial circumstances to make this make sense.

    Also, if MIT is your dream college, why would you supplant that dream by committing to attend UPenn?

    This is why I am personally against ED and why I dislike how ED-crazy - even ED-centric - the application process has gotten for a small certain subset of students applying at elite colleges. Most of the benefit goes to the college, and the student gets very little benefit from it. (I mean, yes, a boosted chance of admission, but that's artificially created by the college by offering ED in the first place and by other techniques that they use to increase the number of people applying in the RD round.)
  • suzyQ7suzyQ7 Registered User Posts: 3,676 Senior Member

    "This is why I am personally against ED and why I dislike how ED-crazy - even ED-centric - the application process has gotten for a small certain subset of students applying at elite colleges. Most of the benefit goes to the college, and the student gets very little benefit from it. "


    MIT and Penn have similar financial aid policies so there is no way one would be better than the other. I'm guessing they would want to see the offer (maybe not). Anyway, don't do it.
  • MusakParentMusakParent Registered User Posts: 677 Member
    Exactly. These are both meets needs schools. There are not likely to be financial surprises in offers from either school. The ED process definitely serves the schools better than the students. Also not a fan at all. We definitely won't be playing that game at our house.

    Some parents are much less engrained in this process than others so I wouldn't necessarily be blaming the parents. And he did have the sense to ask. Young people make mistakes. Hopefully he won't try this.
  • ReelLifeReelLife Registered User Posts: 65 Junior Member
    edited October 15
    It's absurd to call somebody's actions immoral when the OP is simply waiting until she or he has all the data to make a decision. I'm pretty sure you can't enter into a legal contract without knowing the terms of the deal so no, it's not legally binding. No one can predict whether an offer of aid will be made. Not the NPC, not their friends and not anyone on these forums. The OP says the family will definitely not qualify but there is no way to know that. Everyone defines "need" differently. I may not view it the same way the school does. If you are spending $275,000, I think the right thing to do is wait and see if you get an offer. It's not illegal or wrong to do that. Penn's tuition is $2000 more than MIT's so it costs more. It's perfectly ethical to decide you'd rather spend $2000 a year less. And by the way, the OP's question is "Can I do that?" The answer is "Of course, you can."
  • austinmshauriaustinmshauri Registered User Posts: 7,535 Senior Member
    Do any of the colleges require parents to run the NPC as part of the ED process? If they had a print out of expected costs and the financial aid package was similar, it would seem like the COA wouldn't be a surprise. I think it's understandable if the family decides they really aren't comfortable paying that kind of money, but backing out for a college that's $2k less/year isn't really about the money.
  • ReelLifeReelLife Registered User Posts: 65 Junior Member
    The U Penn website says total cost is $75,303 a year. MIT’s says $70,240. To me $20,000 difference over four years is real money. I would say the real ethical question is “Is it moral of schools to force students into making that kind of financial commitment without knowing all the options simply because colleges are concerned about their yields?” I’m not proposing an answer, simply encouraging people to look at the question another way.
  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 Registered User Posts: 3,346 Senior Member
    I completely agree with @lindagaf. This is totally unethical and goes against the whole point of binding ED. It's one thing if a student truly needs aid and their predicted package (after running the NPC) doesn't come through, it's totally another to know your family doesn't qualify and then use it as an excuse to get out of your binding ED contract because you got into a "better" school. That's total gaming the system and is flat out wrong.
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