Should We Send Early Refundable Deposit to Safety School?

Question:My son was accepted to a college that recommends sending in his school deposit early. This is his safety school so he may or may not go there. They encourage sending in the deposit (this is not a housing deposit but is the school deposit) early so that he can get better housing. The deposit is refundable. He is still waiting to hear from other schools. If I send in the deposit now, will other schools have knowledge of this and possibly not accept him?

Although most colleges are not allowed to extract commitments from prospective students until May 1, some schools work around this by offering refundable deposits. If the deposit to your son's "safety school" is affordable, it's fine to send it now. This information will not be shared. It will have no effect whatsoever on his other college outcomes. However, do double-check that there won't be any absurd hoops to jump through should you want the deposit returned, and be sure to remember get it back if your son matriculates elsewhere. (I suspect that some schools make a little dough off of candidates who lose track of deposits and don't ask for refunds when they are entitled to them.)

Alternatively, before sending any money, you can grill the admission folks about what, exactly, this deposit provides. Without it, will your son get less desirable housing or perhaps no housing at all? If this is a college that guarantees housing to all freshmen and if the frosh residential options are fairly comparable, then there really isn't any “better housing,” and you need not bother with the deposit until your son makes his final choice.

(posted 1/4/2012)