Seniors, Ready to Accept your College? Your Initial Offer may not be Your Best Deal - College in 321

Seniors, Ready to Accept your College? Your Initial Offer may not be Your Best Deal

Written by Kathy deJong

November 12, 2019

Seniors, Ready to Accept your College? Your Initial Offer may not be Your Best Deal

In September, the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigated the National Association of College Admissions Counselor’s (NACAC) Code of Ethics for student recruiting. As a result, the DOJ found that the guidelines set by the organization, made up of thousands of representatives from college admissions offices as well as high school and independent counselors, were too restrictive when it came to practices involving the recruitment of prospective freshman and do not allow enough room for students to receive enticements and better offers. This finding has the college admissions world in a tizzy, but in the end, students may be the beneficiaries, yet it is uncertain to what extent it will impact the admissions process.

This article in the Wall Street Journal sums up the findings.

The impacts will be felt in Early Decision applicant enticements and the ability of students to continue to be recruited with better offers after the May 1st acceptance date. One of the colleges that have jumped on the opportunity is High Point University in North Carolina. High Point is offering preferential benefits to Early Decision applicants such as first housing and course picks, early move-in and access to an HPU success coach as early as December 1 of the student’s senior year. While on the surface this sounds like a reasonable set of offers for students that make a binding commitment to HPU early, this Early Decision option is not practical for families that can’t make a commitment without knowing their total costs which may be over $50,000 in tuition, room and board. So, this “benefit” generally only benefits higher-income families for which the cost of attendance is not a consideration. This is one of the reasons why this practice was discouraged in the NACAC code of ethics.

On the other end of the admissions process, May 1st has always been seen as the college commitment date. Colleges use the deadline to solidify who will be showing up on their campus in the fall to ensure all beds and classroom seats are filled in the fall. (They can turn to the waitlist if needed.)  With the “poaching” restrictions lifted, colleges can now contact students that may have declined their original offer after May 1st and present them with additional scholarships or incentives to get them on their campus. This recruiting activity could potentially continue into the beginning of the fall school year. This change presents numerous challenges for colleges and high school guidance offices, but these negotiations could potentially give financial relief to some students, particularly those that fill a demographic need (e.g. someone from North Dakota), or those that can boost a college’s enrollment stats (e.g. increase average SAT score). 

This could also fundamentally change how students build their college list and where to accept, at least initially. If the college admissions process was not already complex, another layer of uncertainty was just added.

Spring of 2020 will certainly be interesting for the first group of seniors to encounter these relaxed guidelines. Whether a large number of colleges choose to engage students differently for the Early Decision deadlines or after the May 1st date remains to be seen. High school seniors may want to hold off on buying the college attire and dorm furnishings a few extra weeks this year, unless of course, getting a discount elsewhere isn’t enough to change your mind!


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