The Double Deposit: When You Accept More Than One School

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May 1 is the day that screams anxiety for a lot of high school seniors. If you’re holding a bunch of acceptances, you need to make a decision. And that decision has to be made (in some cases) in less than a month. So what do some students and their parents do? They do a “double deposit.” Or a triple. Or a quadruple even.

Yes, the student will accept more than one offer to give them more time to decide. Families will use orientations as the Ultimate Admitted Student Event, and then withdraw their acceptances juuuuust before they’re literally packing up the car.

No, they won’t get their money back, and they know it.

Some students are hoping that waitlist offers will still pull through, or financial aid offers are still being negotiated. Those cases are slightly different, but still problematic, if you’re not communicating with the schools.

So let’s talk about the double deposit game.

Waitlisted? Negotiating?

Are you waitlisted at your dream school? If you’re depositing at your second choice while you remain on the waitlist, you’re ok. The waitlist scenario isn’t the same thing as a double deposit. Colleges expect you to make a deposit elsewhere. In fact, you really need to. Getting off the waitlist is a numbers game, and a gamble with low odds. Work to get off that waitlist, write letters, visit the school again, and hope for the best. Also, communicate with your “backup” school. They might be your second choice, but they’re the first choice for many others. They won’t take it personally.

Are you still working with your first pick school on your financial aid package? If so, you’re already in touch with people there, and you can ask about extending deadlines (if possible). They aren’t guaranteed, but in this case, sometimes a double deposit is necessary to keep your budgeting in check.

RELATED: Are Double Deposits Ethical?

Double Deposits: Ethics and Legal Consequences

Have you double deposited just to give yourself more time? There are some pros for this, but honestly, the cons outweigh them. Here’s a few to consider.

Schools Talk to Each Other: Schools aren’t islands all by themselves. In many cases, admissions professionals are friends with all of their colleagues across the state and around the country. They can, and will, check up on someone, and they can, and will, rescind offers of admission if they find out you’ve double deposited. It’s in the fine print in many schools’ acceptance information.

Also, your high school guidance counselors are asked to step in if they believe you’ve double deposited. No lie.

Admissions Numbers: Schools expect some melt — that’s the term that’s used when some students in their yield “melt” away during the hot summer months. But if there’s a specific algorithm they follow to still make their target numbers. Those schools have been upfront with you and they want you on campus; reciprocate and be honest with them.

Money: If you have the money to accept multiple offers and know you’re going to be in the hole for that money, can we suggest putting it in savings instead? Use that cash for books or more pizzas. Hundreds of dollars of “gift” money to universities just because you needed more time to decide is unwise.

Ethics: We understand this is a big decision to make in a short amount of time. But… the timelines were communicated well in advance. Nothing was a surprise. Signing a contract stating you’ll only deposit at one school when you know you’re not going to do that is a huge ethical issue. Students, is this how you want to start out your college career? Parents, is this the example you want to set for your young adult? This decision and its timeline is a life lesson. And there is a fine line between legality and honor.

Finally, everyone has their own reasons for the double deposit. Use your time before May 1 wisely, but if you’re holding a couple of acceptances at this point, get hopping on your decision, and let those extra offers go ASAP.

Updated January 2020

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