Beginning Fall 2021, expect three major college admissions changes

By Rajkamal Rao  

For over two years, the Anti-Trust Division within the Department of Justice has alleged that three established admissions practices of colleges are anti-competitive and violate the law, hurting students and families.

  1. The May 1 deadline. Colleges have always maintained that May 1 is when students pay a deposit and lock in their seats. After that date, other colleges can no longer "poach" these students because the students have already signed a "binding agreement."

    Change: Beginning in Fall 2021, colleges will no longer impose the May 1 deadline and will allow students to walk away from their acceptance letters if they decide to pursue a different college. Students will lose their deposit at the first institution - so expect colleges to raise deposit amounts to lock in students from abandoning their acceptance commitments.

  2. ED Restrictions. When students apply to colleges using Early Decision, colleges were returning the favor only by offering admission to select students. Colleges never doled out additional incentives - such as admission to honors programs, financial awards, or housing choices - to ED applicants.

    Change: Beginning in Fall 2021, expect colleges to offer ED admits sweet incentives beyond just an offer of admission.

  3. Transfer students. When a student applied and got admitted to College A, but decided to attend College B instead, current rules prevented College A from taking any steps to entice the student back from College B.

    Change: Beginning in Fall 2021, expect colleges, such as College A above, to dig into their applicant pool and offer students that didn't accept their offers the first time around attractive transfer packages to enroll the next year.

NACAC, the industry association which governs colleges, has already agreed to make these changes as part of a consent agreement with the Department of Justice. The matter is in court - and if the court approves the decree (which should be a mere formality), the DOJ has agreed to drop its Anti-Trust complaint against NACAC.

Each change above significantly strengthens student choice and weakens the incredible hold that colleges have on students and families.

This development, therefore, is a huge victory for families.

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