College Acceptance Deadline: When Do You Have to Choose

“When do you have to accept a college offer?” Usually, the answer is May 1st, but not always. As you start receiving acceptance letters from multiple colleges, you may feel like you need to make some quick decisions about which college to choose. However, you usually don’t have to rush this decision.

When Do You Have to Accept a College Offer?

When you have to accept a college offer depends on the college you applied to and the applications cycle you accepted under.

The National College Decision Day

If you applied to a school under regular decision or early action, the college acceptance deadline for almost every school is May 1st. You will need to submit your answer to every school that accepted you, either letting them know your intention to attend or that you’re graciously declining their offer. You will often have to submit your deposit on this date as well.

Exceptions to the Rule

Of course, not every college requires an answer on May 1st. There are exceptions. They include:

  • Early decision. If you applied under early decision, your application was a binding contract. If you are accepted, you have to attend. Decisions and deposits tend to be due in mid-December. There are very few reasons to get out of early decision.
  • Rolling admissions. For students that applied through rolling admissions, the deadline may depend on the time of year you were accepted. Refer to your acceptance letter and packet for more information.
  • Some colleges may have different dates. While most do follow the National College Decision Day deadline, not all do. Make sure to check your acceptance letter and packet for the exact date just in case!

When Should You Accept a College Offer?

While a school may not require an answer until May 1st, that doesn’t mean you should wait until that day to submit accept! You never know what’s going to happen – Wi-Fi problems is one – so it’s best to send in your intentions as soon as you’ve decided which college you want to attend.

How Do You Decide on a College?

There’s a lot to consider when deciding which college to apply to – but now that you have your acceptance letters in hand, you’ll find yourself reviewing the same factors!

While you might feel it’s an easy decision – you were accepted to your dream college, for example, it’s still a good idea to consider a few things before making your final choice. We recommend

  • Visiting the colleges’ campuses, even if you visited already
  • Redoing your pros and cons of each school
  • Comparing programs for your intended area of study
  • Reviewing your wants and needs in a school
  • Talking to current students and alumni
  • Comparing financial aid offers

What if You Miss the National College Decision Day Deadline?

If you miss the May 1st or other decision deadline, contact the college admissions department as soon as possible. If you have a valid excuse, they may allow you to still accept their offer. Detail the emergency, problems, or other issue you faced when trying to submit your decision and deposit. If they accept your excuse, be sure to send in a thank you note.

What’s Next?

After you’ve submitted your letter of acceptance and deposit to your college of choice, you might be wondering, “What’s next?”

1. Celebrate!

First, congratulate yourself! You’ve started on your next journey and you’ve accomplished so much. The college application process is stressful, and you’re overdue for a bit of celebration. Whether that’s going out with friends or heading to your favorite restaurant with family, you deserve it!

2. Wait for Your College

Next, there’s a little bit of a waiting game, but the stressful part is behind you. You have to wait for the college to send any further materials including information on when to sign up for orientation, pick your classes, select your dorm room, and more. You should also receive details regarding move-in day for first years and first day of classes.

3. Prep for College

Finally, you’ll want to start prepping for college. If your school hosts orientation, don’t skip it! This is vital to making friends, but it may also be necessary (or mandatory) to select courses, pick a dorm room, take placement exams, and more.

You’ll also want to give thought to how you’re going to decorate your dorm room, what you need to pack with you, and finalizing any student loans, scholarships, or grants you qualified for.

While most the deadline to accept college offers for most schools is May 1st, this is not a hard and fast rule. Your college may have a slightly earlier or later deadline. Always pay attention to the paperwork you received with your acceptance letter so you can plan accordingly!

Financial aid packages usually come with acceptance letters, but most don’t have a single format and they may be a little confusing. How do you know you’re getting the best deal? Our Financial Aid Offer Comparison tool cuts through any confusion and puts the numbers in an easy-to-understand format. Click here to sign up for this FREE resource and get started!

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