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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 04/ 1/2010

Is it okay to double deposit at colleges? Part 1

By Valerie Strauss

It’s April 1st, and many high school seniors across the country are learning today which colleges accepted them and which did not. Those students who applied to a range of colleges are likely to receive more than one acceptance, and for many, a difficult decision lies ahead. For some, "double depositing" becomes attractive.

What's that?

I asked a college administrator and a college admissions counselor to explain it from their different perspectives--one representing a school and the other the student. Below is a post written by Bruce Vinik, president of Vinik Educational Placement Services, Inc., in Cabin John, Md. A follow-up post -- "The problems with double depositing: Part 2" -- is by Michael Sexton, vice president for enrollment management at Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley, Calif.

By Bruce Vinik

Double depositing: Two words that strike fear in the hearts of even the most seasoned college admissions officers.

Now that high school seniors have received the news they have been anxiously awaiting for the last few months, the time has arrived for them to make one final decision.

If they have been fortunate enough to gain admission to more than one college, they must decide where they intend to spend the next four (or more) years. And that decision must be made by May 1st, the national reply date for all admitted students.

For many students, this is an easy decision; they have a clear first choice and know exactly where they want to go to college. To guarantee themselves a space at their favorite school, all they need to do is send a non-refundable enrollment deposit check. At some colleges this may be as little as $100, while at others it can be as much as $500 or $1,000.

For some students, the final choice is not so easy. They have two or three colleges that they are considering and aren’t sure about what to do; they love all of their schools for different reasons. And though they re-visit their colleges and look to teachers and friends (and even parents) for guidance, they are racked by indecision. So what do they do? They postpone the inevitable by sending checks to two colleges – that is, they double deposit.

What many of these students and their parents don’t know is that double depositing is a violation of their responsibilities as established by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). The reason many of them don’t know they are in violation is that they have never heard about this or any other “responsibility” and have no idea who or what NACAC is. But students need to understand that double-depositing is wrong.

Colleges dislike double depositing because the practice creates an enormous amount of uncertainty about the size of their incoming freshman classes. They can’t be certain about the number of students who are going to show up for the fall because they can’t be certain that each student who has made a deposit will attend.

Since many colleges don’t require payment of the first semester’s tuition until shortly before the start of the academic year, schools can be left with beds to fill and budget shortfalls that they did not anticipate. Some colleges may find themselves over-enrolled and with a shortage of housing for students. Neither situation is a happy one. In order to prevent double depositing, some colleges actually check enrollment lists at other schools for offenders.

A college that discovers a double depositor is within its rights to withdraw that individual’s offer of admission.

Equally important, double depositing hurts other students because it wreaks havoc with waiting lists. Colleges cannot offer admission to students on their waiting lists if they are uncertain about the number of depositors who will actually matriculate. Since schools are hesitant to do anything that will lead to over-enrollment, some applicants who would normally be admitted from waiting lists are not. As a result, double depositing prevents deserving students from being admitted to their favorite colleges.

Although many students struggle to make that final college choice, the decision is not a life-or-death matter; most of them will be happy wherever they spend the next four years.

Double depositing may allow those with a tendency toward procrastination or indecisiveness to delay the inevitable, but eventually even they will have to make a decision. Students should do the right thing and make the choice by May 1st.

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By Valerie Strauss  | April 1, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Bruce Vinik, College Admissions, Guest Bloggers  | Tags:  college acceptances, college admissions, double depositing  
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Next: The problems with double depositing: Part 2

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