College Deposits, Enrollment, and What Happens If You Get Off the Waitlist

Padya Paramita

College Deposits, Enrollment, and What Happens If You Get Off the Waitlist

If you've been admitted to your top choice college, congratulations! You might be wondering about what the next steps are. On the other hand, you might have been waitlisted by one or more of your top choice colleges, the wise thing to have done was to submit a deposit at your next best option. Since putting in a deposit helps guarantee that a college will save a spot for you in their incoming freshmen class, it makes sense that you would want to make sure that you attend a school you’re excited about once in Fall. However, once May arrives and other students put in their deposits, a spot may open up at your favorite college. If things work out and you’ve sent in a compelling letter of continued interest, perhaps you get the coveted email or phone call—you’re in at your dream school.

So, how do you put in a deposit at your top choice college? And if you've gotten off the waitlist somewhere, what do you do about the school you’ve already enrolled in? And what happens if you get off the waitlist? In this blog, we’ve answered just that.

College Deposits and Enrollment: How to Say Yes to Your Top Choice College

The waiting period is over and you’ve received a handful (or more!) of college acceptance letters from the schools on your list. First of all, congratulations! This is a great problem to have—your hard work over the last few months has paid off wonderfully. Once you’ve celebrated for a couple of days, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and think about the options that lie ahead of you. 

Don’t treat the decision of which school you’re going to attend as a light one. To the best of your ability, you should try to visit campuses, understand the opportunities, and reach out to current students at the places that have accepted you. 

Then, once you're sure, you should go to your selected college's student portal and find the admissions decision. In your acceptance letter, or another option on the portal, you will find a button that allows you to submit the deposit. Insert the credit card information and pay the amount required. You should be all set!

What to Do If You’re Waitlisted

First things first, before diving into the question of what happens if you get off the waitlist, let’s talk about the basics of college deposits, waitlists, and enrollment. Colleges waitlist students who are absolutely qualified to attend and be a good fit for their institution. However, perhaps due to applications from similar candidates who are a slightly better fit for what they’re looking for that particular year or a lack of confidence that you won’t attend their school if admitted and in order to protect their yield, they might have waitlisted you.

It can be easy to feel disheartened if you really liked the school. However, you can’t give up there. Definitely let them know of your interest and if you will attend if you are admitted off the waitlist, tell them that in the letter. In the meantime, unless you’re absolutely convinced you don’t like anywhere else you’ve been admitted and want to take a gap year and reapply, you should definitely submit a deposit at one of your next best options.

Like I said earlier, submitting the deposit makes sure you have somewhere to attend in the fall, even if you aren’t admitted off the waitlist at your other top choices.

What Happens If You Get Off the Waitlist?

Next, we come to an ideal scenario—what happens if in May your favorite school (or a college you admire deeply) has decided that they actually want to admit you and you are off the waitlist? You might think that because you have submitted a college deposit to agree to enroll elsewhere, you can’t attend this school that you’ve always dreamed of. However, that’s not true! Even though deposits aren’t refundable, colleges are well aware that at any time, a student may decide to withdraw their enrollment if accepted to a school that might be a better fit for them. So, while you won’t get your money back, if you’re convinced that you wish to attend this other school, you can send a quick email to the institution where you’ve submitted your deposit. 

The email might look something like the following:

Dear Admissions Office,

I regret to inform you that I have been offered a place at X College off the waitlist [you don’t necessarily have to name the school, you could say “another college”], and I believe this is a better fit for me. Unfortunately, I have to turn down my position at your school. I apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your time and consideration.


[Your name]

Often, colleges will simply reply with a “thank you for letting us know” or “we’re sorry to see you go.” If a college really liked your application or deeply valued your presence as a student, (or simply to protect their own yield), they might offer you a bigger financial aid package or other perks in an attempt to keep you as a student in their institution. However, for the most part, what happens if you get off the waitlist is that you can choose where you wish to attend and colleges definitely understand. And don’t forget then, to pay the deposit at this other school where you’ve gotten off the waitlist. You will usually have a shorter window to decide than you did for your regular decision college but you’ll probably know almost immediately what’s the right call.

It can be difficult to figure out the logistics of college deposits and enrollment when it comes to understanding what happens if you get off the waitlist at one of your dream colleges. However, ultimately, this is one of the best-case scenarios that you can encounter as a high school senior! Don’t be afraid to consider and weigh your options, talk to your teachers and guidance counselor, and dive into research classes and offerings to make sure you’re making the right call. Congrats!

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