There’s a common mantra among admissions officers and guidance counselors alike that admissions is NOTHING like any commercial process, so any comparison to a commercial process is immediately viewed with great derision. Among these the ultimate sin is to compare the admissions process to making a purchase, like buying a car or a house. Many of my colleagues, upon hearing such a grievous comparison, will launch into a round of invective worthy of politicians.
The discourse gets particularly strident this time of year as we approach the national May 1st deadline for students to submit their enrollment commitments. Admissions officers weeks ago began lamenting on their various listservs all the ways in which students try to manipulate this process, and trading suggestions for how we can discourage or even prevent students from depositing at more than one institution.
Don’t get me wrong – I think it would be delightful if you only pick one institution at which to deposit (especially if that choice is Mason, of course). There are many good reasons for the May 1 system, many of which are intended to protect applicants and their families. It should, theoretically, keep colleges from pressuring you to make a decision before May 1, since schools aren’t SUPPOSED to promise better housing/schedules/social life if you deposit sooner. It also theoretically allows universities to offer space to others if you’re NOT going to enroll, and for institutions to plan what kinds of courses to offer to meet your needs, how many orientation sessions to run, and how many bunk beds they have to squeeze into one room this year.
While all that’s well and good, I suspect many families (maybe even you) really couldn’t care less about making things more convenient for the colleges, and just maybe also don’t care much about whether some other student gets a space. This is partially because we are a society that likes the whole free market theory and are driven by self interest, and partially because families sense that these reasons are a big load of manure. They know about said manure because they read all the news reports that say that applicants are double depositing in ever increasing numbers, yet students continue to be admitted, faculty to be hired, etc.
I really like when the argument gets all fired up as a debate on “ethics”. It seems particularly charming that the same universities that are sending massively manipulative marketing materials (oh how I love alliteration!) and providing entirely opaque information on scholarship and financial aid policies, which they maneuver behind the scenes, then call students unethical for not being able to make up their minds by May 1 so deciding to lose hundreds of dollars on deposits just to have more time. I know I’ll catch a lot (A LOT) of flack for this, but it isn’t unethical, it’s a purchasing decision (let the flack begin!). You can place deposits on any number of items (say a car, just to draw the comparison most likely to inflame my colleagues), and decide NOT to make that purchase without being in the least unethical, can’t you?
Let’s face reality – colleges already know that you might have been waitlisted somewhere else and committed to that waitlist. As a result, many of you will deposit at a place knowing that, should the place that wailisted you make an offer, you’re going to ditch the place you deposited. We also know that the number of students double depositing has been increasing rapidly (shhhh – what we don’t mention is that there’s really nothing we can do about that – other than keep your deposit).
Here’s my radical suggestion: justfor fun and giggles, how about all the colleges and universities decide that double depositing is NOT unethical, in fact it’s so acceptable we’d prefer you TELL US!!! I know, this sounds crazy – I mean, who wants to inject HONESTY into a system that’s working SO WELL (as the sarcasm drips from my keyboard)? Most of us already have models where we predict how many students that deposited won’t ever enroll – wouldn’t it be better to have actual student responses to help those models work?
Once again, I’m sure most of my colleagues will disagree and see this as expanding the marketing and confusion period well into the summer, but here’s a news flash – we’re already there!! So I say to you high school seniors, in these final days before May 1, I don’t consider double depositing unethical – I can even understand it and think we should have a system that embraces it! In the meantime, just to be safe, maybe you should only deposit at Mason. And by safe I mean, of course, safe for me. Be seeing you.
Filed under: Admissions, College, College Admissions, College Search Process, Deadlines, Education, Family, George Mason University, Life, University | Tagged: Admissions, College, Deposits, economy, Education, Family, Life, May 1, University |