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Articles / Applying to College / Should I Send Two Deposits While Waiting for Honors Program?

April 25, 2009

Should I Send Two Deposits While Waiting for Honors Program?

Question: I have been admitted to my state university but am on the waitlist for their honors program. If I do not get into this program, I will enroll at a liberal arts college that also accepted me. Should I send a deposit to BOTH the state university and the LAC? May 1 is too soon for me to know where I will enroll.

I agree that May 1 is too soon for many students to make a realistic decision. This year in particular, many are still waiting for financial aid appeals to be resolved. However, double-depositing is considered unethical, and I have known of students who got "caught" by the colleges in question and had their acceptances rescinded by both.


Your best bet is thus to make one deposit for sure, and then ask the other school where you are undecided if you can have an extension so that they don't give your spot away. For instance, since you say that you will only go to the public university if you get into the honors program, you can ask for an extension there. Tell them that you will definitely enroll if you get the green light on the honors program (if, in fact, you will).

Although you can do this by telephone for expediency sake, if you get an okay on the extension, be sure to ask for the name, title, and email address of the person who granted the extension. Then tell him or her that you will send a follow up email and would like a reply to it so that you can have written confirmation.

If you want, you can try getting an extension at both of the colleges that you're deciding between, so that you don't have to send any deposit by May 1. However, do note that most colleges will not grant extensions unless there are extenuating circumstances (e.g. a death in the family) and not because you are waiting to hear from another school.

If you do manage to wangle an extension from one or more of the colleges on your list, make sure that you not only get it in writing (as suggested above), but also be clear on whether or not there's a specific date by which you must commit. Don't assume that the extension is open-ended. Ask the college when the new deadline will be.

When making a deposit at one college while waiting to hear from a another school, you must expect to lose that deposit if the waitlist college eventually says yes, and you decide to matriculate there. It is not unscrupulous to withdraw your enrollment when you get admitted elsewhere from a waitlist, but don't expect to get your deposit dough back either.

Note also that, at some schools, late depositors may lose out on housing options. So even if an extension can save you a spot in the class, it may also leave you with a just spot for a sleeping bag on the student-lounge floor. :(

Yes, of course, there are plenty of applicants who do double-deposit and will get away with it, but it's a very slippery slope and one that we do not recommend for both ethical and pragmatic reasons.

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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