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Articles / Applying to College / Sending a Deposit While on a Wait-List

April 17, 2017

Sending a Deposit While on a Wait-List

Question: My daughter is on a wait list at her first-choice college which, in recent years, has accepted a number of students from this list. But she has been told not to expect an update until after May 1. Meanwhile, she is supposed to make a deposit at her #2 college by May 1. Can she ask College #2 to give her an extension so that she doesn't have to confirm her enrollment there by May 1? And if she does send a deposit to College #2 and then hears that College #1 will admit her, can we get the deposit back if it's shortly after May 1?

You can certainly ask for the extension from College #2 but you will have to be honest about why you want it. And, once you are, you're unlikely to get it. Admission folks tend to be sympathetic if a student asks for an extension for medical reasons, due to a death in the family, or sometimes because a financial-aid appeal is still pending at their own school. But when it comes to getting a break so you can hear from a competitor college, you probably won't be granted any leniency. However, if you DO manage to wangle the extension, be sure to get it IN WRITING (email is fine). Don't rely on a verbal okay, whether it's on the phone or even in person.


If you end up having to put down a deposit at College #2 (likely), and then you find out right after May 1 that your daughter has been admitted to College #1, you can always try asking for your deposit to be returned. Chances that you'll succeed are pretty lousy, but if your family has high financial need, be sure to say so (repeatedly, if necessary) and it's possible you'll get your money back … especially if the good news from College #1 comes so fast that the ink is barely dry on your check.

Finally, if your daughter definitely wants to attend College #1, even after you've sent your dough to #2, make sure that the admission folks at the first school are well aware of it.

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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