Student Rights in Choosing a College


 The Statement of Principles of Good Practices, established by NACAC (National Association for College Admission Counseling), is a Code of Ethics "to ensure principled conduct among professionals in the recruitment of students and the transition to post-secondary education".  Most families involved in college planning don't realize the protections provided by this now 18 page statement. Some of the statements that college members have agreed to include:
  • not establishing any application deadlines for first-year candidates for fall admission prior to October 15 and  giving equal consideration to all applications received by that date.
  • establishing wait list procedures to ensure that no student on any wait list is asked for a deposit in order to remain on the wait list.
  • permitting first-year candidates for fall admission to choose among offers of admission, financial aid and scholarships until May 1.
It's the last one that prompts a great deal of discussion this time of year. There are some "gray areas" related to the May 1 decision deadline. These areas are often around housing and scholarship offers. Some colleges pressure students to submit a non-refundable enrollment and housing deposit well before the May 1 deadline. Some colleges give students a scholarship deadline prior to May 1. The pressure is on for colleges to fill their class and it can be difficult for students to make clear decisions when they feel this pressure.

In order to deal with this stress, some families "double-deposit" to buy time before the May 1 deadline. Since a student can only attend one college, this is ethically wrong. It is  unfair to colleges and to the other applicants and may result in acceptances being withdrawn by the colleges involved.  So what's a student to do? Students finding themselves in these "gray areas" should contact the college directly to be clear about the terms. Some colleges offer alternatives for housing options or offer extensions for scholarship opportunities. This is the time to research, compare offers and attend accepted student events. The colleges have had many months to make their decisions and now students have until May 1 to make theirs.