Apr 6, 2012

Students have Rights in the Admissions Process

Since its founding in 1937, the Arlington-based National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) has worked to create and enforce a code of ethics for the “admission-counseling” profession, outlined in NACAC's Statement of Principles of Good Practice (SPGP).

Although NACAC member colleges and counselors are very much aware of the practices and policies to which they agree when joining the organization, sometimes students and families don’t know there exists a set of rules by which all parties should conduct the “business” of college admissions.

As the college drama winds to a close, it might be useful to remind everyone of the ground rules or “rights and responsibilities” basic to offers of admission. Here are some of the fundamentals directly from the SPGP:

  • You have the right to receive factual and comprehensive information from colleges about their admission, financial costs, aid opportunities, practices and packaging policies, and housing policies.
  • Once admitted, you have the right to wait until May 1 to respond to an offer of admission and/or financial aid (applicants admitted under early decision programs are an exception).
  • Colleges requesting commitments to offers of admission and/or financial assistance prior to May 1 must clearly offer the opportunity to request (in writing) an extension until May 1 and they must grant these extensions without prejudice.
  • You must notify each college or university to which you have been admitted whether or not you are accepting or rejecting the offer by no later than May 1 (again the exception is for early decision).
  • You may confirm the intention to enroll, and, if required, submit a deposit to only one college or university (the exception to this arises with the student is placed on a wait list and is later admitted).
  • If you are placed on a wait list, the letter notifying you of that placement should provide a history that describes the number of students on the wait list, the number usually offered admission, and the availability of financial aid and housing for waitlisted students.
  • Colleges may not require a deposit or a written commitment as a condition of remaining on a wait list.
  • Colleges are expected to notify you of the resolution of your wait list status by August 1 at the latest.
  • You may accept an offer off the wait list and send a deposit even if you have already deposited elsewhere, but you must notify the college at which you previously indicated your intention to enroll.

More information and a downloadable version of the complete Statement of Principles of Good Practice are available on NACAC’s website.


  1. As a parent of a graduating senior who was waitlisted at 4 schools for the fall of 2013, including his top choice, I agree with the NACAC principles of good practice, but feel strongly they do not go nearly far enough.

    I think the NACAC could well establish additional guidelines clarifying how the waitlist should be used by colleges and how those processes should be communicated to students. For example it is unclear how the need for financial aid affects the decision to waitlist students. Also unclear is institutional ethic of a college waitlisting thousands of students, when they historically have admitted an average of 10 from the waitlist in previous years.