You entered the college admissions crucible an “applicant” and emerged as an “accepted student.” This glorious metamorphosis deserves to be met with excessive celebration. It’s a time to ceremoniously put down a deposit at the college of your dreams, purchase an obscene amount of clothing bearing your school’s colors and crest, and begin resisting the urge to let senioritis fully overrun your academic immune system.

Amidst the ecstasy and exaltations of the moment, it’s easy to overlook the mundane tasks that still lie before you. One such task involves notifying the unlucky institutions who will not have the fortune of being graced with your presence next fall. Communicating your intentions to the schools to which you have applied and/or been accepted but will not be attending is not nearly as fun as slapping a bumper sticker on your mom’s car or shopping for dorm accessories. However, it is an essential chore to squeeze in around these more exciting celebratory activities.

Reasons for canceling an application

Let’s begin by reviewing all of the conceivable reasons why someone would need to cancel applications:

  • You were accepted Early Decision at another college
  • You were accepted Early Action at another college and have decided to attend
  • You are no longer interested in a particular college where you applied
  • The financial aid package offered was not large enough to cover costs
  • All decisions have been received and you’ve made your selection

As you can see, some students will be doing this before the winter holidays following an EA/ED decision while others will be withdrawing applications in the spring.

Withdraw through the application portal

If this option exists, you should be able to withdraw your application online in a matter of moments. Some schools provide simple instructions for how students can withdraw an application. For example, Northeastern asks students to log into their school account and fill out a “decline admission” form. Drexel University applicants are instructed to log into their school profile and submit an “Application Inquiry Form” indicating that they are withdrawing.

Amherst, on the other hand, asks withdrawing applicants to send their full name, address, and birthday to a provided email address.

What if I can’t find how to cancel my application?

If students can’t withdraw their application through their application portal, and no specific instructions are easily found, we recommend that students contact their assigned admissions counselor by e-mail and include the following info:

  • Full name
  • Birthdate
  • Full address
  • Assigned application ID (if applicable)
  • Application type (freshman or transfer)
  • Application term
Why it’s important

Promptly notifying the schools that you will not be attending is more than just a courteous thing to do; it is essential step in helping to keep the larger college ecosystem thriving. Institutions are frantically trying to calculate their yield rate—the percentage of accepted students that will attend—and need this information ASAP so they know how many students to admit. On a more relatable level, somewhere in the world there is a flesh-and-blood teenager just like you, whose admissions fate at their number one choice depends on you completing this simple task. Taking a few minutes to withdraw your application will set off a massive celebration in another applicant’s home. Who wouldn’t want that positive karma?

Can I put down multiple deposits?

We receive this question from time-to-time from parents/students who have a) still not decided among their top choices, or b) are still negotiating a better financial aid package. Our answer is always a simple one—no.

Putting down multiple deposits is unethical as you are essentially forcing two or more schools to reserve a spot for you when, in truth, you will only be attending one. This hurts the university, as it hinders their ability to accurately predict enrollment. It also hurts applicants on the waitlist at those schools since you are essentially falsely occupying a spot that could otherwise belong to them.

Key Takeaways
  • Whether during the early or regular admissions cycle, most applicants will eventually find themselves needing to withdraw their application from one or more colleges.
  • At some schools directions for withdrawing an application is explicitly stated and/or able to be completed through their online application form.
  • A fair number of colleges do not post clear instructions for withdrawing an application. In this case, use our template above.
  • Taking a few moments to withdraw your applications is part of being a responsible citizen in the world of college admissions. Your cancellation will help both the college and a fellow applicant who desperately wants to attend that school.
Dave Bergman

Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent education consultant. He is a co-author of the book The Enlightened College Applicant: A New Approach to the Search and Admissions Process (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).