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The Biggest Change in College Admission You've Never Heard Of

We are passionate about sharing information about the college and career journey. I'm a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling and big changes are occurring that need to be shared. This piece was created by a member who was part of this change and is Dean of the College Guidance at Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico. He published this article which I felt would provide insight to our clients.

Dear Parents,

I just returned last Sunday from the NACAC National Conference, which was held in Louisville, Kentucky. NACAC ( is a professional association of more than 15,000 professionals involved in the college admission process. Albuquerque Academy is a member of NACAC, as are most colleges and universities in the U.S., as well as testing agencies, community based organizations, and many others who play a role in this process.

NACAC has a set of rules, our Code of Ethics and Professional Practices (CEPP.) At the conference in Louisville, NACAC changed that code of ethics in ways that could have a direct impact on your students and their college process. I am writing to inform you about those changes and NACAC’s response to those changes.


For the last two years, NACAC has been subject to an antitrust investigation by the Department of Justice. The DOJ holds the opinion that some of the rules in the CEPP restrain how and when colleges compete for students. I sat on the committee that helped write the CEPP and actually had to produce documents in response to a discovery request by the DOJ.

In an attempt to try to settle the DOJ complaint, NACAC removed three provisions from the CEPP, one having to do with transfer students, which I won’t go into here, but the other two having to do with Early Decision applications and the May 1 college decision deadline. Let me talk about those separately.

Changes to Early Decision

The CEPP previously stated that colleges could not offer any incentive to students to encourage them to apply under a binding Early Decision program. To quote directly from CEPP, "Examples of incentives include the promise of special housing, enhanced financial aid packages, and special scholarships for Early Decision admits.”

As of last Saturday, that prohibition has been removed, effective immediately.

This means that colleges could begin to offer your students incentives to apply under a binding Early Decision program. (Most ED deadlines are early November or early January.) Early decision is a very serious commitment, and we don’t encourage students to apply ED unless it is a clear first choice and the students and family understand the financial ramifications of applying to a binding program. While it is not likely that colleges will act quickly enough to begin offering incentives, it is possible. We have already asked your seniors to inform the College Guidance Office if they receive any unusual solicitations from colleges to apply ED, and we ask that you parents also keep an eye out for such offers. We strongly encourage you to speak directly with one of the college advisers before agreeing to apply under any ED program.

May 1 Response Date

May 1 is known in admissions as the universal reply date. It is the deadline for students who have not already done so to commit to a college for next fall. Previously, CEPP prohibited colleges from trying to “poach” a student who has indicated their intent to enroll in another college -- no incentives to change their mind, no last-minute scholarships or other benefits.

That rule, also, was removed last Saturday, effective immediately.

We will not know the impact of this rule change until after May 1. We are hopeful that most colleges will still respect the ethical guidelines spelled out in other parts of the CEPP and will respect a student’s right to make a college choice free from harassment and the stress of confusing offers and counter offers. But we just do not know what will happen. Nobody does.

NACAC Response

The CEPP remains a very strong statement of professional ethics and guidelines that emphasizes the core NACAC values that "advocating for the best interests of students in the admission process is the primary ethical concern of our profession.” Our new NACAC president began her term at the membership meeting last Saturday by affirming those values and encouraging member institutions to uphold our beliefs, even in the absence of those explicit rules.

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