Q: My son applied to 7 colleges and was accepted at 3, waitlisted at one. He is now in a dilemma because he can't decide where to enroll, and he has to commit himself by May 1. Naturally, the school he likes best is the one where he is on the waiting list! We have visited only one of the other colleges, and he is not crazy about it. What should he do?
A: It actually sounds like your son has some good options! He has been accepted to two colleges he has not seen yet, and now is the time he ought to visit, if the distance and cost of travel are not too great.
By now, he has received invitations to special events for accepted students, either on the college campuses or with alumni groups in New York City. He should definitely attend these! Between April 1 and the universal enrollment deadline of May 1, colleges host many events that are designed to convince accepted students to enroll. They are going to work hard for your attention and approval, and this is the time for your son to ask questions, not only of admissions personnel but also of currently enrolled students he may meet at these events or on campus. He should even re-visit the college he went to see earlier, because now he will observe it from a new perspective.
You and your son can work on a chart listing the comparative information on the three colleges: quality of the educational program, cost, distance from home/relative ease of travel, accessibility of professors, class size, quality of life on campus, safety and security. This will help him make his choice on a rational basis.
Being accepted from the waiting list is a "perhaps" situation, and cannot be counted on. He has to go with the sure thing! The May 1 enrollment decision must be made on the basis of where a student has been definitely accepted. It is very, very rare for a waitlist acceptance to be offered before May 1. So your son will choose one of the three. Meanwhile, he ought to contact the other school in writing and state that he does wish to remain on the waiting list. He should ask his college counselor to send an updated transcript, and he should send a letter (not an e-mail) informing the college of his continued interest and anything significant that has happened since the time he filed his original application. That may earn him more attention if, indeed, places open on the waiting list. If this happens, he can enroll there and inform the other school that he is withdrawing his enrollment – but be prepared to lose the deposit you sent to the first college.
It's terrific that your son has several choices – congratulations to him on his successful applications!