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Is Your College Tuition Deposit Refundable?

Shelby Bremer

May 1 is the infamous decision deadline for most universities nationwide. Incoming college freshmen are required to commit to their future alma mater at this point, and along with that commitment comes a deposit. Typically, in order to hold your place in their incoming class, or to reserve your preference for student housing, universities require that you pay a non-refundable deposit, usually of a few hundred dollars, depending on the institution. But life is unpredictable — what if your plans change? Can you get a refund on that college tuition deposit?

In short, the answer is maybe, and here are a few factors that affect your likelihood of getting a refund on your deposit:

1. Reason for rescinding your commitment.

When it comes time to tell a school that you won’t be headed to their campus in the fall, your approach and your motivations definitely matter. Don’t just fire off a quick email to a counselor who put in a lot of time cultivating a relationship with you, and make sure to be respectful. Before asking for your deposit back, explain the difficulty in changing your mind, and that you wish the circumstances were different, but you have to decline their offer. Financial reasons or health problems affect decisions out of necessity rather than personal preference or simply backing out of a commitment. Explain your extenuating circumstances and ask for consideration politely.

2. Relationship with your admissions counselor.

Hopefully if you’ve already been accepted and have committed to a college, you have an admissions counselor who’s willing to help you make your educational dreams come true. If you have a good relationship with your counselor, he or she has been with you throughout the process, and you feel comfortable asking them for advice, you can try to appeal for your refund. If they have seen your commitment for the past few months, it’s more likely that they’ll try to influence the institution in your favor.

3. Institutional policy.

Universities all differ in policy, and each individual institution has different approaches to this deadline. Before you ask for your deposit back, be sure to familiarize yourself with each school’s policy, or if there’s still time, read up before you pay up — you might save yourself a deposit or two in the process.

4. Deadlines.

Oftentimes the decision deadline is also the deadline by which the deposit becomes non-refundable, but it’s not as binding before then. If you’ve paid before the decision day hit, and rethink your decision before it’s permanent, the odds are much higher that you’ll be able to get your deposit back. Again, this depends on the university, so be sure to be fully aware of all deadlines throughout the process, hopefully before you write any checks to secure your spot.

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