5 Reasons to NOT Pay Your College Deposit

MailboxIt’s exciting! You have a place to go to college. A new home for the next four year. SOMEONE wants you – maybe even your first choice school. They’ve even offered you some scholarship money, and now they’ve asked for your deposit. STOP!

Did you know that the National Association for College Admissions Counselors (NACAC – of which I’m a member) ethics states that no college shall manipulate students to make a commitment prior to May 1 and housing options may not be leveraged to do so.  It is your right to take your time to make what is a BIG decision and ultimately a large investment in your future.

  1. You likely don’t know all of your options. Wait until you’ve heard from each school to which you’ve applied. You may even want to do a final round of visits to your top offers.
  2. Rarely does the full scholarship package accompany the acceptance offer. Aside from a home purchase, a college education is likely your biggest financial investment. This type of expense should be weighed heavily. This doesn’t mean the cheapest option is the best option, but students should not make such a decision without all information.
  3. If you have your acceptance, but not your scholarships, committing to attend via paying a deposit does not increase your chances at a higher scholarship amount. As a matter of fact, it may do just the opposite. Once you are committed, the college no longer needs to woo you to attend. They may just move some of those scholarship dollars to someone they need to woo.
  4. While financial aid offices don’t “negotiate” (a dirty word!) aid offers, I have known students to present their more substantial offers to their first choice college and get a bit more money.  However, now would not be the time. This big ask would come in late March or early April. If the college finds their yield or expected number of deposits to be low, they may just find some more money for a student motivated to enroll. It doesn’t hurt to ask; all they can do is say no.
  5. Finally, teenagers change their minds….frequently. I’ve worked with teens since 1991. My professional experience, and personally raising three teens, have proven this to be true. Give it time for the options to settle in.

I’ve stated these reasons for years, but it wasn’t until 2016 that I truly understood how hard it is to wait. My son was a senior, had been accepted at his top three choices, and had good scholarship offers. As we sat in a January housing meeting at the school quickly moving into first place in his heart, even I, the experienced professional, started to panic over housing options and considered for a brief moment (okay, two or three moments) reaching for my wallet. But I stopped, hit pause, just as I’m advising you.

I fully understand the psychological piece of this and know it’s hard to wait. My mantra as a college adviser is, “I give good advice, not popular advice.” For those of you who’ve asked, when wearing my mom hat, we paid our college deposit at the end of March.

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