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Articles / Paying for College / Should I Send My Enrollment Deposit Before I Receive My Financial Aid Award?

Jan. 16, 2019

Should I Send My Enrollment Deposit Before I Receive My Financial Aid Award?

Should I Send My Enrollment Deposit Before I Receive My Financial Aid Award?
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I was accepted to my first choice (not a binding acceptance) and would like to send in my deposit to hold my spot. But I haven't received the financial aid package from this school (or the other two that accepted me) yet. Do I need to wait for that if I am going to rely on financial aid, or would I be able to get my $500 deposit back if the financial aid award isn't enough?

Students who pay an enrollment deposit can usually get the money back if they make the request before May 1

Students who pay an enrollment deposit can usually get the money back if they make the request before May 1, but they may have to jump through some hoops to do this. Since you have already been offered a place in the freshman class at your top-choice school, your college must hold this place for you until May 1, so there's no reason to send them any dough until you've received your financial aid package. Rather than rush to submit a check, "The Dean" suggests that instead you write to your regional admissions rep (the staff member who oversees applicants from your high school) to ask about the financial aid timeline. Commonly, Early Decision applicants receive an aid award at the same time that they receive their admission verdicts, but applicants who apply under other early plans (e.g., non-binding Early Action, Rolling Admission), may not receive any financial materials until spring.

Enrollment deposits will typically be refunded before May 1, but housing deposits are not governed by the same rules

Note, however, that, although enrollment deposits will typically be refunded before May 1, housing deposits are not governed by the same rules. Some colleges (especially larger public universities where dorm space is not guaranteed) will warn incoming freshmen that, without a prompt housing deposit, they may not be able to snag a room on campus. Typically, housing deposits are not accepted until the enrollment deposit has arrived. So if your college is pressuring you to send a housing deposit now, and you were to send both an enrollment deposit and a housing deposit, it's unlikely that the latter will be returned if you change your mind.

If you are worried about housing, then sending an enrollment deposit soon may be worthwhile

Thus, if you are worried about housing, then sending an enrollment deposit soon may be worthwhile, as long as you understand that you may have to fight to get it back, and you probably won't get your housing money back at all. But, if housing is not a concern, your best bet is to wait for your other college outcomes and for all your aid information before writing out that big deposit check.

About the Ask the Dean Column

Sally Rubenstone is a veteran of the college admissions process and is the co-author of three books covering admissions. She worked as a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years and has also served as an independent college counselor, in addition to working as a senior advisor at College Confidential since 2002. If you'd like to submit a question to The Dean please email us at editorial@collegeconfidential.com.

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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