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

    You’ve finally completed the long and arduous process of submitting your college applications. You worked tirelessly on your personal statementsupplemental essays, résumé, and once you’ve pressed ‘submit,’ you deserved 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. In the meantime, let’s review what a college acceptance letter is and what to expect when it finally arrives. 

    What is a college acceptance letter?

    Well, at its most straightforward, a college acceptance letter is exactly that: a letter from the college or university that details your acceptance into the intended program you’ve applied to. This can usually be found in a congratulatory sentence right at the top: “Congratulations! We are pleased to offer you admission…” 

    However, a college acceptance letter will also detail some important information, such as the semester you’ve been admitted to, opportunities for incoming students, and important next steps with deadlines. 

    How to read a college acceptance letter

    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. 


    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 check 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. 


    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.


    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, it’s important that you reach out to the admissions office well before this date.

    When do colleges send acceptance letters?

    So, when do college decisions come out and when can you expect your acceptance letter? That will depend on the type of application or window you applied to: Early decision, early action, or regular decision.

    Early action and early decision applications are typically due in November, which means you can expect to receive a decision in January or February, perhaps even as early as December. 

    Regular decision applications, on the other hand, are due later, but won’t receive a decision until March or early April. 

    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 financial aid offer information and 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 about college admission letters

    The main thing you should take away about your college acceptance letter is to review it carefully for any information that might be pertinent to helping you make your final college decision. 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, the possibility of receiving a deferral letter is also there. You can read more about the steps you should take when receiving a deferral letter here.


    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.


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