Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Deposits, Deferrals, Waitlists, and Your Second First Choice

by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D.

A first occurred last week, when I had two columns in a row that solicited reader comments with recommendations for future columns. I’m happy to oblige. 

An Early Yes With Required Deposit One reader provided feedback on the column about colleges wanting students to commit to coming before they’ve heard from all their schools. The response, in a nutshell, was that the column was short sighted and written from a privileged point of view, because I was assuming the student could afford to pay an enrollment deposit when saying yes early. 

Dear reader—no. The question addressed by that column was “If a college wants an early yes, what do you do?” The different question you wanted addressed was “If a college wants an early yes and a deposit, what do you do?” In that case, try this:

  • Is it refundable? If the college really has the temerity to ask for an early deposit, ask if the deposit is refundable, and if so, is there a deadline where it becomes nonrefundable. They may not provide this information willingly. Persist. 
  • Request a waiver If you need a fee waiver for any college deposit, ask. Since your financial aid forms will back you up, it’s going to be really hard for them to say no. 

If you have the funds to make the deposit, but simply don’t want to, your best bet is to tell the truth. “I’m really not in a position right now where I can pay an enrollment deposit. If there’s any way you can give me an extension on the deposit of 90 days, I’d really appreciate it.” This is nicer than saying “forget it”, so there’s a chance they’ll say yes. 

  • Is it time to be brave? If they say no to the waiver, it’s time to choose. This could be a sign they’re going to be inflexible with other issues in the future. Are you willing to deal with that for four years? 

Either way, another viable option is to simply say Yes to the offer and not send in the deposit. It’s likely this will lead to a series of letters from them that remind you about the deposit, a series of letters that gives you more time to hear from other schools.  Warning—this could also lead to your being kicked off the admit list without them telling you, so if you choose this option, you’re rolling the dice. Talk to your counselor before you make this move.

Waitlists and deferrals Another reader liked the column on how to deal with colleges saying no, and asked about handling waitlists and deferrals.

This should help with deferrals, and even though it’s a little old, it’s still sound advice, as long as it’s a sincere deferral. The same advice holds for waitlists.

The problem is the changing nature of deferrals and waitlists. Both have become ways of issuing a polite no—at least some colleges see it that way. If you aren’t sure, call the college and ask two basic questions: 

“How many students did you defer (waitlist) last year?” 

“How many on that list were ultimately accepted?” 

Each year is different, and you may have a special quality that increases your chances of getting off the list, so keep that in mind. At the same time, if a college has a list of 3000 names and admits 5 off that list, it’s time to assume you’ll be learning somewhere else. Keep pushing at your first choice, but start thinking about your second first choice. It’s the wise thing to do.

No comments:

Post a Comment