Admissions

Help! I Missed the May 1 Deposit Deadline. Do I Have ANY Options?

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I was wait-listed at two schools and accepted at one. While waiting to hear back from the two where I was wait-listed (I still haven't heard anything from them), I let May 1 pass without sending in my deposit. Am I totally out of luck with the school that accepted me since I didn't enroll by the May 1 deadline? What are my options (if any)?

“There is no such thing as accident; it is fate misnamed,” said Napoleon Bonaparte. So perhaps you really don’t want to attend the college that accepted you, even if your waitlist schools don’t come through.


If that’s not the case, and you’d actually be glad to go there, then you should telephone your regional admissions rep at the school that said yes right now! (This is the staff member who oversees applicants from your high school. If you don’t already know who that is, check the website for a name and contact information or call the admission office to ask.)

Once you get your regional rep on the phone (or another staff member if he or she is unavailable ... don’t wait), explain your dilemma. It’s possible that this school does still have a place for you. However, I wouldn’t recommend mentioning the two waitlist colleges because that could raise suspicions that, even if admitted, you might bail out in a week or two, should you receive good news from elsewhere. But if your delinquency in enrolling was tied to concerns about finances, it’s a good idea to say so, especially if you can’t enroll unless your financial aid offer — as well as your acceptance — is still on the table. And where are your parents in all of this? If you’re navigating this maze alone and don’t have a mom or dad who was nagging you to get that deposit in by May 1, then you can explain this to the admission rep as well, and it may earn you a little extra empathy.

Then, if you learn via this phone call that it isn’t too late to commit, ask what your next steps should be, and make sure you receive a confirmation in writing (either via email or a web portal) that your spot in the freshman class is now secure.

If, however, you are told that the best this college can do is to stick you on its own waitlist, then you should promptly tell all of your waitlist colleges (three now, not two) that you will enroll if admitted, and then grab the first offer you get. It’s even okay to spell out your predicament to your two initial waitlist schools with the hope that you might tug a couple heart strings.

Alternatively, you can plan a gap year, with the aim of expanding your college choices next fall, or you can visit the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s “Options for Qualified Students” list today.  Here you will find more than 400 colleges and universities that are still accepting new applications, even if the official deadline has passed. You may be surprised to see many familiar names included. Be sure to note that some of the schools listed have vacancies only for transfers, although most are welcoming freshmen too. Also check to see if financial aid and housing are offered, if needed.

While it wasn’t wise that you seemingly put all your eggs in the waitlist-college basket, there may be a little voice in the back of your head that’s been telling you that the one college that accepted you is not where you really want to be. So perhaps missing the deposit deadline wasn’t truly an accident and -- rather than viewing your current situation as having no options -- consider instead that maybe you now have many!

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