What to Do After Receiving a College Acceptance Letter

Getting a college acceptance letter is very exciting!

Pixabay user Anne-Onyme

When you receive your college acceptance letter, you should absolutely take time to celebrate, read over any materials the school sent, and start comparing your offers. Decisions generally need to be made by May 1st.

So first and foremost: Congratulations! We know you put a lot of hard work and effort into studying to boost your GPA and ACT/SAT scores, volunteering, and attending extracurriculars and clubs over the years. Crafting those applications and essays, looking up colleges, and visiting campuses likely took up a lot of your time the past year. It was no easy feat – so good job on your successes!

What Should You Do After You Receive Your Acceptance Letter?

1. Read the College Acceptance Letter and Additional Materials

The college you’ve been accepted into will likely send you a bit of material in addition to the acceptance letter. Make sure you go over it and understand what they’re asking for and providing you with.

This paperwork could contain valuable information such as the financial aid opportunities they’ve awarded you, what program you’ve been accepted into, how to accept their offer, their required response date, how you’ll sign up for orientation, student portal login information, and additional details about the upcoming school year. This is all vital info, especially if this is the school you’re planning on attending.

2. Wait for More Acceptance Letters

Since the average student applies to 6-8 schools, you’re likely still waiting on a few responses. You probably applied to some safety schools, matches, and reaches, so you’ll have a range of colleges sending you letters soon.

It’s easy to get excited once you’ve received your first letter, especially if it’s from a school you’re really interested in. However, try to wait for the other letters to come in before you commit. You could receive a fantastic financial aid offer from another school, and it’s a good idea to have all of your options on the table before making a final decision.

3. Compare, Contrast, and Debate

Once you have all, or at least most, of your acceptance or rejection letters back from colleges, you can start on the decision process. Just like you made a list of the pros and cons when you completed your initial college search, you’ll want to do that again.

Some things to consider:

  • College costs
  • Financial aid offers
  • Location
  • Field of study
  • Strength of the program
  • Clubs, extracurriculars, and activities offered
  • Anything else important to you

Comparing Financial Aid Offers

Comparing financial aid offers is an essential part of this process, but it can be a little confusing. Every school uses a different format, so making heads or tails of the information you’re presented can feel headache inducing. One package may look great on paper, but when you deep dive into the numbers, it could turn out to be the worst offer due to the sticker price.

College Raptor’s Financial Aid Offer Comparison tool allows you to get through all that confusion and complex information to help you make better sense of the numbers.

4. Visit College Campuses

Part of your comparing process should also involve visiting college campuses – especially if you haven’t visited it before. You don’t want to go to your “dream school” for the first time in August and find out it is definitely not the college for you. Online tours and videos are great, but colleges usually only show you what they want you to see. Visiting in person will definitely give you a better sense of what the school offers its students.

5. Make a Decision by May 1st

You have time to make your college decision and it’s not something that necessarily has to be rushed. But you do have to make a decision by May 1st for most colleges. (Some schools will have different required response dates, which should be listed in the acceptance letter).

By this point, you should be confirming your spot at one of the schools, sending in a non-refundable deposit, and declining other schools’ offers. Delaying will likely result in you losing your acceptance spot.

How Long Do Application Letters Take to Arrive?

The answer to this really depends on when you submitted your application.

Early Action and Early Decision applicants will usually hear back around mid-December. If you applied under Early Decision 2, you should hear back around mid-February. For regular decision applicants, it can be anywhere from two to three months after you applied. Most letters ship out in March and early April.

However, some schools have “rolling admissions.” This means they accept applications from students year-round. If you applied as a rolling admission, you should expect to hear back about two to three months later.

We understand that waiting for those acceptance letters can be tough, but there are things you can do in the meantime!

What Does a College Acceptance Letter Look Like?

This really depends on the school, and wording will vary from college to college. The letter itself though will be congratulating you on your achievements. The envelope should also include information on the next steps and detail what you should do if you decide to accept or decline their offer.

It’s possible, too, that your school may send your acceptance letter by email or over the online portal, so be sure to pay attention to those accounts!

Use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid for schools around the US—for FREE!