When do you tell schools you will not be accepting their admission offer?

Just a few days ago, we received this comment below our 12 Essential Tips for Students Accepted at a Private School article:

My son just got accepted into a private school and we just called them to say that he’ll take the spot that was offered to him. However, I didn’t realize that we should also call the schools to tell them that he will not be attending there. I’ll make sure that we do that, but how far into the application process does that become unnecessary?”

It’s a great question, exactly when in the school decision process do you let other schools know that you will not be accepting their admission invitation?

In my experience, you decline all open admission acceptances when you choose and pay your deposit at the school your student will attend in the fall.

When you choose ‘School A’ and send the deposit to secure the space, this is the time to decline admission offers to other schools.

This lets you focus on the coming fall and the new school, and it frees the other schools that admitted your student to begin working with their waitlisted candidates.

Is this approach perfect or absolute? No.

Pursuing a Waiting List Admission

Your son or daughter may have been waitlisted at the school of your choice, and you’ve elected to pursue possible admission.

In this case you need to make a deposit and secure a place at the best school to which you have an acceptance. Then, check with the school that has offered possible waiting list admission; let them know that you want to pursue possible waiting list admission. Then, decline admission to all other schools.

This leaves your student with a place in fall secured by a deposit. And, a potential waiting list admission in the coming months.

Keep in mind that your deposit is most likely non-refundable and that you will forfeit the deposit if you receive and choose the waiting list admission.

This approach is most equitable to all schools. It frees most schools to talk to interested families and keeps two schools engaged.

If your family requires a financial aid package to make attendance possible, you must check with your waitlisted school to see if, and make sure, a financial aid package will be part of admission. If not, then you choose the best school that’s offered your student admission and financial aid.

The waiting list admission may never materialize. In which case, you’re all set.

If the waiting list admission does materialize, your family has a choice to make. You choose the best fitting school.

It’s not uncommon for a student and family to choose the school that offered regular admission even if a waiting list spot opens as families often become comfortable and familiar with a school as they begin working through post-admission planning.

Communicate with your schools and let the Golden Rule guide your actions and thoughts when working with schools.

Brian Fisher

A product of both private and public education, Brian Fisher served as a teacher, coach, dorm parent, and administrator at three different boarding schools. Brian also fills the role of Director of Development at Wolfeboro, The Summer Boarding School, in NH along with being a partner at AdmissionsQuest.

More by Brian Fisher

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