After pouring all that time, effort, and emotion into your college applications, the thrilling news is that you’ve been accepted to one—or more—of the schools on your list.

Now the next step is to decide when to put down your enrollment deposit. The pressure you may feel to send in that deposit and commit to a college can feel overwhelming, but resist the urge to make a quick decision. There are several factors to weigh before you make your choice. Here, experts answer a number of questions applicants have about the best timing and strategy for enrollment deposits.

Is There an Advantage to Paying Enrollment Early?

Although there is technically no reason you have to pay early, there are a couple of benefits to doing so according to Nikki Specht, a high school counselor in Philadelphia. “One advantage is definitely peace of mind,” she says. Putting down an enrollment deposit means you’ve finally chosen your future school. “It feels good to send that deposit in and have a final decision made and start planning for the next steps,” she explains. The second reason is more concrete: housing. “Once you put your deposit in, many schools will start to make your dorm assignment, and if you wait until the last minute, you may end up in an undesirable situation.” But be mindful that this is only the case with some schools—others do not tie housing selection to enrollment timing.

Once you put your deposit in, many schools will start to make your dorm assignment, and if you wait until the last minute, you may end up in an undesirable situation.

Nikki Specht

Are There Benefits to Waiting to Submit Your Enrollment Deposit?

In general, there’s no upside to waiting to send in your deposit, aside from having a little more time to be certain that the school is the best fit for you. But Specht does reiterate that time is very valuable. If you’re not sure of your decision, she suggests taking full advantage of the time before the enrollment deadline. She says to “do research into programs that you are looking for like internships, study abroad and sports to make sure they are available to you.” If you can, visit the campuses and see how you feel on each campus. You don’t want to find out that you don’t feel comfortable on campus on move-in day, she warns.

Should You Wait for Financial Aid Information Before Making the Deposit?

Families can feel pressure to put down their enrollment deposit as soon as their child’s been admitted, even before they’ve received their financial aid award letters or asked all of their questions about paying for college. Without a doubt, you should have your financial aid package in hand, as well as answers to your questions, before you send in an enrollment deposit. Since deposits are mostly nonrefundable you want to be certain about your choice—and financial aid is a major factor in being certain for many students.

Elisia Howard, CEO of College Insights, recommends being proactive when it comes to gathering all the information you need before making that enrollment payment. “If the deadline is approaching and you haven’t received your financial aid packet, you need to call the financial aid office of the university immediately and ask them when you can expect your offer.” This also applies to any outstanding questions you have about your award letter. “Let them know that you cannot make a decision about a school without knowing what you will be expected to pay,” she continues, “and that you will only consider schools that give you offers well before National Decision Day.”

What Should You Do If You Can’t Pay Your Deposit by the Deadline?

If the enrollment deposit deadline is around the corner and you don’t have the money to pay it, you need to take immediate action by reaching out to your school’s admissions and financial aid offices. According to Nikki Bruno, executive director of Student Coaching Services: “If you’ve qualified for certain kinds of financial aid, they might be able to waive or defer [your enrollment deposit].” However, she cautions, “If you wait until after the deadline, they can’t guarantee your spot, and you might end up on a waiting list even though you were already accepted.”

Should You “Double Deposit”?

“Double depositing” means putting down two enrollment deposits at two different colleges. If you have the funds and are undecided about which is your top choice, it’s a tempting option. But, it can also have serious repercussions. Bruno warns, “If the schools find out [that you’ve enrolled in more than one school]—and they do talk to each other—your application runs the risk of being rescinded.” Instead, she suggests doing your research to collect whatever information you need to make your final college decision before deposit deadlines roll around. 

There’s one exception to the rule, as Bruno points out: “The only time it’s considered 100% acceptable to double deposit is if you’re on the waiting list for one school but want to guarantee you’ll go somewhere, so you deposit at your backup school.” If you’re not accepted off the waitlist, your deposit from that school will be returned. The consideration is that if you are accepted off the waitlist and opt to attend that school rather than your backup you may lose the second deposit you submitted.

As with most steps in the college application process, making your enrollment deposit with confidence boils down to having the right information to support your decision. If you’re debating where and when to submit your deposit, give it some more thought, do your research and track down answers to your lingering questions. It’s worth it to make your first official investment in your future an informed choice.

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