It's not often I repeat a post. But this one is important. From March, 2010:
Seniors who've been admitted to several desirable colleges need to make some difficult decisions soon, as colleges require admitted students to declare their intention to enroll by May 1. It can be a stressful time, especially for a student who is really struggling with the decision. But whatever you do, don't try to cheat your way to more time by placing multiple deposits.
Some families plunk down deposits at multiple colleges in an attempt to buy a little more time for their kids to choose which college to attend. The thinking is that you can hold your spot at a few schools and then back out of the additional schools when you eventually name the chosen one.
This is a bad idea for a number of reasons.
I know that this is your search process, and you shouldn't make decisions based on other people. But when you place multiple deposits, you're taking spots that other kids desperately want. That's not a nice thing to do. And parents who encourage that behavior are telling their kids that it's OK to break the rules as long as you stand to gain from it.
Also, deadlines are real. Sometimes we have to make difficult decisions under time pressure because of those deadlines. Successful people accept this and find a way to get things done when they need to be done. The truth is that you're unlikely to gain any additional clarity surrounding your college choices by (literally) buying another week or two to think about it. Take the allotted time to consider your options, but make your decision by May 1.
And most importantly, if you place a deposit at more than one college and any of your schools finds out that you're doing this, they can revoke your offer of admission (even if they're the school you eventually did choose). College admissions officers take violations like this very seriously. Imagine how a boss would react if she extended a job offer to someone and found out that he'd been dishonest with her during the interview process. What if she found out he'd misled other companies with whom he'd interviewed. Couldn't that taint his reputation and cause the boss to take back his job offer, even if all of his credentials were still legitimate? That's how colleges feel when they find out an accepted student was dishonest.
If they catch you lying (and that's what you're doing when you place multiple deposits), no college will care about your GPA or SAT scores or your certificate proclaiming that it was, in fact, you who discovered what really killed the dinosaurs. You'll be out.
I know what some of you are thinking. "How will a college possibly know if I place multiple deposits?'"
My response: Does it matter? Is the risk worth the potential reward? I don't think it is.