I have received over the years, but especially at this time of year, calls and emails that go like this:
"I have been accepted ED at Columbia Business School. I am willing to lose my deposit and apply next year to HBS because I think that ED admissions to Columbia means I can get into Harvard."
"I have been accepted to MIT, but I really have my heart set on Stanford, where I was initially waitlisted and then rejected. What do you think about my rejecting MIT and applying next year to Stanford?"
I have been accepted to Chicago, but prefer Wharton because of Wharton's better brand...."
A few thoughts on the above scenarios:
- If the accepting top school supports your goals and provides an acceptable educational environment (and you shouldn't have applied if it didn't), then a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Be happy about the outstanding school that accepted you and attend!
- Acceptance at one elite schools implies absolutely nothing about your chances of acceptance at another elite schools. Acceptance decisions are independent events. HBS will not check with CBS and couldn't care less that you were admitted ED at CBS.
What are legitimate reasons for attempting to defer or reject an offer of admission from a top school and reapply:
- Personal circumstances: Major illness in your family for example.
- A relationship issue: Your significant other is accepted at a one-year program in City A and you don't want to be apart for a year.
- Your goals have changed since you applied, and the accepting school no longer is the right one. (This is the least common reason.)
Here's a tip if you want to defer and are serious about attending the accepting school a year later: Offer to put down a large deposit that will be applied to your tuition when you matriculate and lost if you don't matriculate.