When College Acceptance Letters Are Sent Out and What to Do While You Wait

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    You’ve finally completed the long and arduous process of submitting your college applications. You’ve worked tirelessly on your personal statement, supplemental essays, and resume. You’ve recorded all of your volunteer hours and listed all of your extracurriculars. In short, you’ve worked hard. Once you’ve pressed ‘submit,’ you deserve to breathe a huge sigh of relief.

    Now the waiting begins.

    Waiting on your college acceptance letters can feel even more stressful than the application process itself, especially once your peers begin to receive their own college admissions decisions. Routinely check your email for updates during this time. You may also have a prospective student portal you can log into for updates.

    As the weeks and months progress, many students find themselves asking questions such as: When do acceptance letters come out? Do colleges send acceptance letters all at once? Do colleges still send acceptance letters in the mail? And do colleges let you know if you’re not accepted?

    In this article, we will answer all of these questions, as well as help coach you on how to use your time productively while you wait to hear from colleges. It can be easy to lose track of your other priorities while you wait for college acceptance letters. It’s important to remember, however, that you have several responsibilities to keep track of in the meantime.

    To start, let’s discuss when acceptance letters are sent out.

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    When do colleges send out acceptance letters?

    When do college decisions come out and when can you expect your acceptance letter? Ultimately, that depends on the type of application you submitted: Early decision, early action, or regular decision.

    Early action and early decision applications are typically due in November. This means you can expect to receive a decision in January or February, perhaps even as early as December. It’s important to remember, however, that some students who apply early will receive a letter of deferment. This means that the college is still considering their application but needs more time, and in some cases more information, to reach a final decision. If this is the case, the student’s application will be considered among regular decision applicants and they will receive a final decision in March or early April instead.

    What about students who apply for regular decision?

    Regular decision applications are due later and students won’t receive a decision until March or early April. Most schools require final decisions from students on where they want to attend by May 1. Therefore, you can expect a college decision letter no later than the first week of April.

    But what if you are waitlisted from a college or university?

    Come March or April, you may not receive an acceptance or a rejection letter but a letter stating that you’ve been placed on a waitlist. Each school handles this process differently, but being waitlisted means that if enough accepted students choose to decline their offer of admission and an extra slot opens up, it’s yours! The tricky thing about being waitlisted though is that you might not receive a final decision until August. 

    The best thing to do if you’ve been waitlisted is to reach out to the admissions office directly to better access your options and the plausibility of a spot opening up.

    What to do when waiting for college acceptance letters

    Now that you have a better idea of what to expect in terms of application timelines and acceptance letters from colleges, let’s take a look at what you should be focusing on while you wait.

    01

    Maintaining your grades

    It’s important to remain focused during the end of your senior year. While it might not always feel like it, your second-semester grades do matter. Colleges have the right to rescind their offer of admission if you fail to maintain your grades. Your grades will also take on increased importance if you are deferred or placed on a waitlist. Do your best to combat “senioritis” by continuing to practice time management skills and healthy study habits. 

    02

    Studying for upcoming AP exams

    While it’s true that you no longer have to worry about studying for the SAT or ACT, you may still have important tests coming up, most likely AP tests. Study hard to increase your chances of receiving a high score and with it, the possibility of college credit. It’s important to remember that college credits are expensive, so the more credits you can start with, the better. 

    03

    Applying for FAFSA

    All prospective college students should fill out the FAFSA to be considered for financial aid. Each year, the FAFSA becomes available on October 1st. Individual colleges have their own priority deadlines, but generally, the sooner you can fill out the FAFSA the better. Applying early will ensure that you receive the maximum amount of aid, scholarships, and grants available to you. So take this time to be productive and fill out your FAFSA information early. Refer to our FAFSA guide to learn everything you need to know about this process.

    04

    Applying for scholarships

    Once you review how to write an essay for scholarships you are in a good position to apply to as many scholarships as you can find that are relevant to you. After all, college is a huge financial commitment and you can never apply for too many scholarships. Refer to our scholarship bulletin for available opportunities.

    What you need to know about receiving college acceptance letters

    Now that you have a better idea of what to expect in terms of application timelines and acceptance letters from colleges, let’s take a look at what you should be focusing on while you wait.

    How to read a college acceptance letter

    After experiencing the initial excitement that accompanies a college acceptance letter, you’ll want to carefully review all of the documents you receive. This is because, aside from the great relief a college acceptance letter provides, it also offers important information about what comes next between acceptance and enrollment in the school. 

    Here are the parts of a college acceptance letter you can expect to find and what they all mean. You may also want to refer to our article: What to Do After You’ve Been Accepted to Your Dream College to help navigate this position of the college application process.

    01

    Admission details

    Your college acceptance letter will detail the specific college or program where you’ve been accepted. If you were not accepted to the major or program you applied to, you might see that you were still accepted to the general college, with the option to reapply for that program down the road. 

    It’s also important that you confirm which semester you’ve been accepted to as well. Even if you applied for Fall admission, colleges might offer acceptance for Summer or even Spring admission instead.

    02

    Steps for incoming students

    Colleges might also include information in the college acceptance letter about the next steps for incoming students. This might include instructions on creating a student portal, steps to apply for on-campus housing, and details about freshman orientation, which may or may not be mandatory.

    03

    Accepting your offer

    Most importantly, your college acceptance letter will outline the deadlines for formally accepting your admissions offer and declaring your intent to attend. Most colleges will set their acceptance deadline as May 1st, including deadlines for enrollment and housing deposits. If you have questions about these fees, you must reach out to the admissions office well before this date.

    How to respond to a college acceptance letter

    What are the next steps once you’ve received your college acceptance letter? While you likely won’t need to submit a formal thank you letter for college acceptance, if you plan on accepting the admissions offer, you’ll need to take the next steps to commit to enrollment.

    Access your prospective student portal

    This is where you can review information about your financial aid package. This is also where you will formally respond to your acceptance letter.

    Reach out to the admissions office

    If you have any questions about your offer, financial aid, housing, or how to accept/decline your offer, your best bet will be to reach out directly to the college admissions office. Use this guide for tips on how to do so effectively and professionally.

    Submit your enrollment deposit

    If you plan to formally accept a college’s admissions offer, you will need to submit a deposit that will hold your spot to enroll in classes. You might also need to submit a housing deposit to hold your spot if you plan on living on campus.

    Key takeaways and moving forward

    The main thing you should remember about receiving your college acceptance letter is to review it carefully for important information. Make note of where to find information about financial aid, housing, and other important factors that will allow you to compare acceptance offers from different schools. 

    Look for opportunities available to ask questions and learn more about the school so you can make an informed decision. Then, review the enrollment deadlines so you know how much time you have to make your final choice. 

    And finally, take a moment to celebrate what an accomplishment this is! Be proud of yourself and the work you put in to get to this milestone. 

    In addition to an acceptance letter, there is also a possibility of being waitlisted or receiving a deferral letter. You can read more about the steps you should take when receiving a deferral letter here. If you have other questions concerning your college applications, reach out to learn more about our services.

    FAQs

    Most schools will now inform you of their decision online. This might mean an acceptance letter directly via email, or an email notification that a decision has been made which will prompt you to access your application status via your application portal. 

     

    Still, if you've been accepted, some schools might follow up with a formal acceptance letter via mail. This might arrive a few weeks after you've been notified of their admission offer. 

    Again, most schools have now shifted to an online application and admission process. Typically, once you've been notified of your acceptance, you will be prompted to access your application portal or create an account as an admitted student. Your acceptance letter or email should outline this process for you. 

     

    The student portal is where you can review information about financial aid, housing, and enrollment, including submitting your enrollment fee as an official acceptance of their admission offer. 

    In exceptional circumstances, you can withdraw your acceptance from a college after you've committed, although you will most likely forfeit your enrollment deposit. If you do change your mind, you should contact the admissions office immediately. 

    No. To accept admission at a college, you'll typically have to submit an enrollment deposit. To accept admission at multiple colleges, you'd have to submit a deposit at multiple schools which is considered highly unethical. This takes away a spot from a student who might be eagerly waiting to attend this school and makes it harder for colleges to accurately predict their class sizes. 

    You can choose not to accept a college's offer of admission. As soon as you know you will not be attending that school, you should formally decline the enrollment offer so that the admissions office can offer that spot to another student on their waitlist. 

    A letter of acceptance is a decision from the college or university regarding your admission to the school you applied to. It means the Office of Admissions has accepted your application and would like to offer you a spot at their school. As the student, you then choose whether or not to enroll based on their offer letter. 

     

    An offer letter from a college or university comes from the school's Financial Aid office and details what aid you're being offered, which you can then choose to accept. This will include grants, scholarships, and loans. It is important you review and compare these offers carefully when making a decision to accept a college's offer.

    Contact a Prepory college admissions coach and start your college admissions journey.

    Our college admissions experts are here to guide you from where you are to where you should be. Through our comprehensive curriculum, individualized coaching, and online workshops, you are set for success as soon as you connect with us.

    During our initial consultation, we will: 

    • Assess your student’s applicant profile and higher education goals 
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    • Share tips on how to navigate the U.S. college admissions process 

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