Non-refundable preschool application deposits?

Hello community,

I am looking into preschool for my 3 year old and there’s a Montessori school that I am thinking of applying to. However, there is a $260 non-refundable deposit due with the wait list application. The school doesn’t offer an in-person visit or perform the mandatory interview to assess fit for the Montessori style until after the non-refundable deposit is paid. When I asked if the deposit is refunded if the school doesn’t think Montessori is a good fit for the child, they said no. 

My child is currently in a traditional daycare/preschool and I’m not sure if my kid will be a good fit for the Montessori structure. My kid likes doing real life tasks, but also really loves playing with other kids, and isn’t great at playing by themselves (at least at home). The reason we are looking to move schools is because my partner and I worry our child is being bullied by other kids, based on things we’ve been told by our child, things we’ve observed at pick-up time, and some conversations with teachers. We are a queer family and our child is not gender normative. 

I’m just wondering if a non-refundable deposit at this stage is normal/standard practice or something we should be concerned about? It feels like a lot of money to pay without knowing whether or not this would be a good move for my kid.

Thanks for any feedback or advice.

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That feels weird to me. Kind of like paying a housing deposit without touring. I would look for another option if possible because there may be other policies that are odd or don't fit with your family. The preschool my child goes to required a deposit after our family tour. They met our child and we observed how the day went for a while. We initially paid half the deposit and then the other half right before enrollment. The deposit will be last months tuition whenever that happens to be. It seemed like a lot of money but it also felt fair. 

Doesn't sound standard to me. A non-refundable application fee if you get to that point, sure. A deposit to hold a spot on the waitlist, sure... but if you decide against the school while you're on the waitlist or they assess your kid isn't a fit for whatever reason, feels like they should refund the money. I'd go with your gut on this one. My experience with our Montessori (that we're no longer a part of) is that if the school/leads aren't being flexible or accommodating now, they won't ever be. Good luck!

That seems unreasonable to me.  I have seen places require a deposit of maaaaybe up to 100 dollars if you're sure you want to join after a tour and info session but 260 bucks just to be on their list without even being able to tour it would be a hard no for me.  We never paid to be on a waiting list. There are other better options out there!

I've never heard of paying a deposit with an application, only a much lower application fee. I would recommend finding a different Montessori school, if you can.

Yes, a non refundable deposit is pretty standard in my experience. 

In July we made the switch from a small in home daycare that was play based to a Montessori school in el Cerrito for our 3.5 year old son. 
The deposit was $260, non refundable and we couldn’t do any in person visits or assessments until after the deposit. We were also on the waitlist. We found a deposit is pretty standard but in most cases could get an in person tour first. 
We’re a two mom household and happy to share more about the school/process if you’re interested! 

I think that's a red flag that they plan to interview your child to see if it's a good fit but won't refund the deposit if they turn you away. I would not give them my money. 

My child goes to a Montessori school and they did not interview her at all. That seems a bit ridiculous. These are 2 and 3 year olds, what are they expecting? The whole idea is very exclusionary. 

I will say what I've found is very normal is a non refundable application fee for preschools, usually around $100- $150. That gets you on the list. I've looked around at a few different preschools in my area and this was the same everywhere. Once they tell you there's a spit for you and you accept it you often have to either put down a deposit or pay the first month's tuition or something like that and then if you back out you lose that money. But that seems fair to me, you're getting an actual seat at the school for that money.

Anyway, I'd recommend you keep looking, you'll find a good fit. Good luck!

I'm pretty sure a non-refundable application fee is a standard practice for almost all schools you will be applying to, from preschool to university (wait until your child applies to 20 colleges!) LOL

I think you're just going to have to accept it.