What Happens if You Back Out of Early Decision?

No U Turn signage with sad face above it.

Flickr user Kevin Dooley

Is early decision binding? If you applied for early decision and are having second thoughts or something major is going on in your life, you may be worried about backing out of the contract. Here’s what may happen if you decide not to accept your early decision offer.

Nothing, If You Back Out With Good Reason

Yes, early decision is binding. However, if you have a good reason for backing out of an early decision offer from a college, the school will often let you leave without penalty. A common reason for being released from the offer is due to finances. Sometimes a student won’t receive the financial aid package or grants they need and therefore can’t afford to attend the school.

Other excuses considered a “good reason” also include a sick parent or family member, a serious health issue, an accident, or something similar.

There May Be Consequences If You Don’t Have Good Reason

Each school is different on how they view the early decision, but students should understand that it is binding. Some colleges understand and let you off the hook if you say “I’m sorry but this college is not for me like I thought it was”. However, not all colleges view early decision in this way.

Early decision is also an honor bound agreement and not a legal document. However, you do sign an agreement stating that you will attend the school if you are accepted. There are several things that can happen if you don’t attend after you’ve been accepted.

Colleges Inform Your High School

Your high school is often part of the early decision application process. They sometimes sign off on your early decision application. You backing out could jeopardize future students’ early decision chances if they apply to the same college. In some cases, your high school counselor may turn around and tell the other colleges you applied to the situation, hurting your own acceptance chances.

It’s important to note that some high schools won’t even send your transcript or other information to any colleges after you’ve already applied under early decision to one school.

Colleges Rescind Offers If You Applied in Bad Faith or to Two or More Schools

Some students will actually apply to two or more schools under early decision. Accepted into both, students run into a problem. If you decline one and the college finds out about your other early decision application, you may find that they talk to one another and your offer is rescinded from both schools.

Colleges Share Lists

In the same vein, many colleges share “lists” of the students applying under early decision with one another. Did you apply to two schools under early decision that share these lists? Most likely, neither college will accept you. Guidance counselors, alumni, and even classmates tip off college application departments..

Colleges Required a Deposit

Some schools actually require a deposit with your early decision application. You probably won’t be getting this returned if you back out of an early decision offer without a good reason.

Backing out of an early decision offer could have severe consequences for your future. If you are considering backing out of early decision, it helps to do your research. But remember, this is also an honor bound agreement. Do not apply for early decision lightheartedly. It could come back to haunt your other college applications and the rest of your academic career.

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