From stories I'm hearing and from "Ask the Dean" queries I'm receiving, I fear that a growing number of students and parents are being pressured by colleges to send a deposit before the May 1 deadline. Although families are often clearly told that these deposits are "refundable" until May 1 (and they are), they are also being told that the student's space in the class may evaporate without this early commitment.
Sending a refundable deposit is sometimes just a minor hassle UNLESS the student is getting this same pressure from more than one college. In such cases, the parents are asking me, "Is it unethical to send multiple deposits if we plan to withdraw all but one by May 1?"
But this is a question that families shouldn't have to ask. Colleges that subscribe to the Candidate's Reply Date Agreement (which is most but not all) are not allowed to demand a deposit --refundable or not--before May 1. The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) urges parents in this position to report offenders to their school counselors or directly to NACAC.
Note, however, that the May 1 deadline does not apply to Early Decision candidates or to many recruited athletes. But for most other students who are receiving college verdicts now, but who want to see all admission offers (and aid awards) before making a final choice, please be aware that colleges MUST hold your place until May 1, regardless of the threats that they may be issuing.