Depositing At College
With college acceptances coming through and many more on their way, now is a great time to review the practice of depositing at a college. In its simplest possible form, students may send in a deposit to only one college or university by the designated deadline. In the United States, that date is May 1 each year, the National Candidates’ Reply Date. The one exception to this rule about sending only one enrollment deposit is when students are admitted off of a waitlist at another college; these students may submit a second deposit but must notify the initial college and forgo their deposit to that institution.
If you have any questions about this process whatsoever, please consult with your counselor!
The thing to understand is that your school counselor can only send a final transcript — the final piece of the application to a US college — to one institution (with the exception of waitlist acceptances), so be sure to know what the protocol and expectations are.
First, some vocabulary… A deposit is a nonrefundable sum of money required by a college for an admitted student to reserve his or her place at the college; in essence, the deposit signifies the student’s intention to enroll at that institution. In the US, the deposit is typically US$200-$800, while they tend to be more expensive elsewhere (e.g. in Hong Kong, one student was asked for a US$3500 deposit).
To double-deposit is to submit deposits to more than one institution. This is an unethical practice considering a student would be indicating to two or more different colleges that he or she intends on enrolling there when he or she can only attend one. To be clear, though it is debatable whether a student could be “caught” double-depositing and in any way held accountable (and there are certainly those who do not see the practice as unethical), most high schools see a firm obligation to uphold the principles of the issue. Upon applying (see below), applicants are asked to agree not to double deposit, and colleges reserve the right to rescind offers to students caught double-depositing. Additionally, failing to respect this practice can hurt schools’ working relationships with specific colleges and universities. Finally, with the exception of schools where a student is admitted off the waitlist, school-based counselors can and will submit a student’s final transcript to only one college or university after graduation.
Here is the statement that students must agree to on the Common Application, though other applications typically include some similar language:
I affirm that I will send an enrollment deposit (or equivalent) to only one institution; sending multiple deposits (or equivalent) may result in the withdrawal of my admission offers from all institutions. [Note: students may send an enrollment deposit (or equivalent) to a second institution where they have been admitted from the waitlist, provided that they inform the first institution that they will no longer be enrolling.]
It is our experience that some colleges, particularly large residential universities in the US, may ask for a housing deposit ahead of the May 1 deadline to reserve a space in campus housing. Students may choose to submit these deposits independently of their decision to submit an enrollment deposit, and such housing deposits should be refundable. Be sure to read the expectations carefully!
One additional complication, in our experience, is when a student is navigating acceptances across international boundaries where the notification and/or deposit deadlines do not align. Generally, students should seek guidance from their school-based counselors to ensure that they are proceeding ethically, but it is quite common for school-based counselors to recommend that students stick to just one deposit at a time.
Overall, in closing, it should be reiterated that if you have specific questions pertaining to this part of the process, please be in touch with your school-based college or guidance counselor.