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Articles / Applying to College / Accepting Waitlist Offer Instead of Initial College Choice

May 8, 2016

Accepting Waitlist Offer Instead of Initial College Choice

Question: I was recently admitted off the wait list from a school. I have also payed my deposit for the May 1 deadline. However, I am unsure of how to accept the offer. Should I withdraw from the school I payed my deposit, or should I accept the offer that was just recently given to me. In which order should I perform this?

Congrats on getting off of the waitlist at a college you want to attend. That's no small feat these days when many waitlists are bigger than the freshman class itself!


If you plan to attend the college that admitted you off the list, your first step is to accept the offer, following the instructions for doing so that the college has provided (e.g., via a Web portal, by completing a snail-mail form and enclosing a deposit, by answering an email, etc.)

Once this college (we'll call it “College #2") has confirmed receipt of your intent to enroll, you must IMMEDIATELY notify the college that received your initial deposit (“College #1). If College #2 doesn't let you know in any way that your enrollment is confirmed, you should telephone or email to double-check before withdrawing from College #1. When you withdraw from College #1, don't expect any deposit you paid to be refunded. (It can't hurt to ask, but the college is not obligated to give you your money back after May 1.)

Although you have probably heard through the grapevine that students who “double-deposit" can expect a boatload of bad karma, it doesn't count as a double-deposit if you hold off on withdrawing from your initial college until you are sure that the waitlist school has received your intent to enroll. But your karma will go downhill fast if you don't withdraw from College #1 the very second that you're certain that College #2 knows you're coming!

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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