When you’re getting ready to attend college, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of the college application process. You start by considering state schools, liberal arts colleges, and other post-secondary options, then you apply to your short-list of schools.
After some long waits, you'll start to hear back about acceptance decisions and financial aid packages. The whole process is so complicated and drawn out that it’s easy to skip the final step of the application process, withdrawing your application from schools you won’t attend.
Withdrawing applications is a courtesy to other applicants (especially those on a waitlist), and it can give you a sense of peace to commit to a particular school. With this in mind, these are the things you need to know about withdrawing a college application.
When To Withdraw An Application
Basically, you should withdraw your application when you know for sure you will not be attending that particular school. But here are some specific cases.
You’ve Been Accepted Early Decision To Another School
Early Decision applications are binding agreements. If the school accepts you, you will attend that school. Choosing to go to any other school is a breach of the early decision agreement. If a school accepts your early decision application, you should immediately withdraw all other applications, even if you don’t know whether the school has accepted you.
When your Early Decision accepts your application, you lose the option to attend any other school. You may as well withdraw your applications to leave room for other students. Of course, a school can’t force you to enroll, but schools depend on students who apply Early Decision to honor the agreement and attend the school. If you’re worried about financial aid, merit-based scholarships, or other financial considerations, early decision applications may not be right for you.
You’re Choosing To Attend Community College
Many students who want to save money on their post-secondary education use community college to save money and knock out general education coursework.
Typically, community colleges take applications on a rolling basis, and they tend to be less selective than other schools. When you choose to attend a local community college, you’ll want to withdraw applications from other schools. You can always reapply to these schools after you spend a year or two in community college.
You Didn’t Get The Financial Aid Package You Need
Your dream school may have accepted you, but acceptance is only the first part of the college decision. You also need to look at the financial aid package. Some schools just can’t give you enough scholarship or grant money to help you minimize your student loan debt. Be sure to meet with the school’s office of financial aid before withdrawing your application, but don’t accept debt that you can’t afford to pay off after school. If the financial aid package doesn’t make sense, withdraw your application.
You No Longer Wish To Attend The School
Whether or not a school has accepted your application, you’ll want to withdraw your application from the school if you no longer wish to attend that school. Perhaps you realize that a school isn’t a good cultural fit or that it doesn’t have a high-quality program associated with your intended major. Whatever your reason, if you don’t want to attend the school, withdraw your application. You want to leave a spot open for someone else who sees the same school as their dream school.
You’re Committed To Another School
Most schools require you to accept a position for the fall term by early May. But you should hear about acceptance and anticipated financial aid by early March. With all the information in hand, you may be able to make your college decision a month or two earlier than the deadline.
Technically, you don’t have to withdraw an application when you commit to another school, but it is the polite thing to do. After all, withdrawing from a school could open up a spot on the waitlist, or it could free some scholarship money to go to someone else who needs it. When you consider all the other students who applied to the same school, you’ll realize that it is a major courtesy to withdraw when you commit to another school.
How Do I Withdraw My Application?
The process for withdrawing an application varies by school. Some schools allow you to withdraw your application through an online portal. Other schools require you to call or email the admissions office to withdraw your application.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a “bulk withdrawal” option when you decide to withdraw applications. Even if you use a shared application like the Common App, you still have to contact each school to let them know that you’ve withdrawn.
When you withdraw your application, make sure to provide a reason for withdrawing your application. If finances came into the decision, make sure to call that out. While most schools can help you fund your education, many rely heavily on debt to make the access possible. Telling schools how finances affected you may encourage schools to fight harder against the rising cost of education.
Can I Reapply To A School After Withdrawing My Application?
The answer to this question depends on the timing of the application. In general, you can apply to the same school once per semester. If you withdraw your application for the fall term, you’ll need to wait until the spring term to reapply. Some very selective schools only enroll new students during the fall term, so you may have to wait a full year to reapply.
It is worth noting that colleges keep records of re-applications. If you think you may re-apply to the school in the future, be sure to give a reason that doesn’t close the door on future applications. Colleges may be more inclined to give you a second look if you say that you’re taking a gap year, you want to attend community college, you’re seeking a better financial aid package, or you want to attend a school closer to home. Citing a better fit at a different school could tarnish your chances of future acceptance.
Should You Withdraw Your College Applications?
Most people who apply to more than one college should withdraw some applications when they commit to one school. When you withdraw applications early in the decision process, you leave more room for the rest of the applicants. As soon as you’re ready to commit to a school, you should withdraw your applications from all other schools.
Hannah is a wife, mom, and described personal finance geek. She excels with spreadsheets (and puns)! She regularly explores in-depth financial topics and enjoys looking at the latest tools and trends with money.
Editor: Ashley Barnett Reviewed by: Robert Farrington