A Complete Overview of College Enrollment Deposits

Admitted students put down an enrollment deposit to hold their spot in the incoming college class. Learn more about deposits, deferrals, waivers, and refunds.

portrait of Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.
by Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.

Updated March 15, 2022

Edited by Will Baker
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A Complete Overview of College Enrollment Deposits


You submitted your college applications, compared admission letters, and chose your college. But before you start shopping for dorm decor, you'll need to submit an enrollment deposit.

Colleges ask for an enrollment deposit in the spring to hold your spot in the fall. But what is an enrollment deposit? Are college deposits refundable? And can colleges revoke your acceptance after you make a deposit?

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Our complete guide to college enrollment deposits covers the ins and outs of this topic — including information about deposit deferrals and waivers — and answers some frequently asked questions.

What Is an Enrollment Deposit?

When colleges send you an admission letter, you pay an enrollment deposit to hold your spot. This deposit goes toward your tuition for the first year.

Incoming students can expect to spend $100-$300 on their enrollment deposit, though some schools charge as much as $1,000. Most colleges also make the deposit nonrefundable, meaning if you decide not to attend, you forfeit the deposit.

At most schools, admitted students must submit their enrollment deposit by May 1, also known as Decision Day.

But can you submit enrollment deposits to multiple schools if you're having a hard time deciding? While you may be able to do this, you should avoid making double deposits — when you claim a spot at a college, another student loses out on that spot.

Additionally, colleges may actually take back an admission offer if you make a deposit at another school.

How Do I Submit My Deposit?

The process for submitting your deposit varies depending on the school. At most colleges, admitted students must fill out an enrollment form online and submit their deposit electronically.

Students can also submit a hard copy of the form with a check or money order. Some schools even accept online payment systems like PayPal.

Before the decision deadline, make sure you understand how to submit the deposit. Check with an admissions counselor or enrollment advisor if you run into any problems. If you're facing financial hardship that could make it difficult to afford a deposit, reach out to the school.

Can I Defer My Enrollment Deposit?

Many colleges let you defer payment of the enrollment deposit. For example, if you cannot pay the deposit out of pocket, you can apply for a deferral until your financial aid comes through. But be sure to contact your school about this well before the deposit deadline.

Each college sets its own process for accepting a deferral. At some schools, admitted students who received an application fee waiver can automatically defer the enrollment deposit. At other schools, students need to fill out additional paperwork or provide proof of submitting the FAFSA.

How Do I Request an Enrollment Fee Waiver?

Admitted students can request an enrollment fee waiver if the deposit represents a financial hardship. Students who need a waiver should contact the admissions office at their college as soon as possible.

To qualify for an enrollment deposit waiver, students may need to provide proof of financial need. At many schools, qualifying for a Pell Grant or receiving other forms of financial assistance means students can receive a waiver or deferral.

In addition, the National Association for College Admission Counseling offers an enrollment deposit fee waiver that admitted students can submit to their school.

Frequently Asked Questions About Enrollment Deposits

Are enrollment deposits refundable?

Most colleges consider enrollment deposits nonrefundable. That means if you decide not to attend after putting down a deposit, you lose the money.

Paying a nonrefundable deposit but not attending college can cost you hundreds of dollars. However, some schools offer refunds on enrollment deposits if you contact them by a particular deadline. Reach out to your school to ask whether college deposits are refundable and how to apply for a refund.

Are enrollment deposits binding?

A college enrollment deposit holds your spot in the incoming class of students. The deposit applies toward your tuition and fees for the first year. But enrollment deposits are not legally binding. In other words, submitting the deposit does not mean you're legally responsible for paying tuition or attending that school.

If you decide not to attend, most schools will keep the deposit. That makes enrollment deposits nonrefundable, but not binding.

Does FAFSA funding cover enrollment deposits?

Admitted students might think they need to pay for the enrollment deposit out of pocket. But in certain circumstances, students who fill out the FAFSA can use federal financial aid to pay the deposit. Colleges set a decision deadline of May 1 to pay the deposit.

That said, admitted students can ask to defer the deposit until their financial aid comes through. Most colleges will allow students to defer their deposit, meaning they can pay it with FAFSA funding.

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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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