Steps to Take After College Acceptance Offers
If you've received acceptance letters from multiple colleges, congratulations! You should be excited that your hard work has paid off. The next step will be deciding which college is best for you.
First of all, don’t worry about choosing that one perfect college—there’s no such thing. College is what you make of it: What you do while you’re there matters more than the college name on your diploma. Here’s how to make your decision.
Get More Information About Each College After Receiving Acceptance Letters
You probably already gathered a lot of information about each of your college choices during the admissions process, but digging even deeper can help you make the best choice.
Ask the Right Questions
When making the ultimate college decision, it’s important to ask the right investigative questions about each of your choices to see which college fits you best. Questions you can ask include:
- How many first-year students return? How many students graduate?
- Does the college offer the majors I’m interested in?
- What can I do for fun?
- What kinds of students feel at home at this college?
Get Answers from Direct Sources
The best place to get an answer depends on the question. Here are some sources that can provide information:
- People who work at the college
- Current students at the college
- The college’s official website and its College Search profile
As you search for answers, it’s important to use only trustworthy sources of information and to recognize the difference between fact and opinion. While it definitely helps to hear current students’ personal opinions, a college’s official website and its admissions officers are often the best sources of factual information about that college.
Visit—or Revisit—the Campuses
If possible, check out a college's campus to get more information. If you can’t visit the campus, you might be able to find a virtual tour on the college's website that will provide insight. Another online option is to explore student videos on College Search to hear about student experiences on select campuses.
You can also call or email the college's admissions office with your questions. Ask if someone there can put you in touch with current students and recent graduates. Admissions office representatives, your high school counselor and teachers also may know students who graduated from your high school and now attend the college you have in mind.
Think Things Over
You've done the research and asked questions. Now it's time to check your own thoughts and feelings. Ask yourself questions like these:
- How did I feel when I was on campus at each college I visited?
- Which colleges best match my list of must-haves?
- At which colleges can I imagine myself as successful and happy?
Compare the Colleges
Use your new information to sort the colleges by what they offer and what you want. Make a list of the pros and cons of each college. You can also use College Search to compare up to three colleges side by side.
Compare Financial Aid Awards
This is an important step for many students. Once you’ve been accepted to the colleges of your choice, talk to your family about which ones work best for you financially. Together, you should make decisions about financial aid, such as whether you should take a student loan or a work-study job. As you compare financial aid awards, you might discover that a private college is just as affordable as a public college based on the amount you'll receive.
Make Your Acceptance Decision
You don’t have to decide overnight. Many colleges don’t expect to hear your final decision until May 1 (unless you applied as an early decision applicant), so you have some time to make up your mind. But remember that colleges are serious about reply deadlines. If you don’t send your deposit in time, you risk losing your place.
Respond to the Colleges That Admitted You
Once you’ve decided which college you want to attend, inform all the colleges that accepted you about your decision.
Respond to the college you’ve decided to attend
Make sure to send in the following items, via the online student portal or through email, by the deadline:
- Your acceptance letter
- A deposit
- A separate acceptance letter for financial aid if required
- Any other items as required by your specific college
Respond to the colleges whose offers you're declining
It’s important that you also send a brief email to the other colleges to thank them and turn down their offers. This frees up spots for other students.
Once you've made your final decision to attend your college of choice, your mission over the summer is to prepare for your first year as a college student.
How long does it take for an acceptance letter to be sent out?
There’s no standard for how long it takes colleges to send out acceptance letters, but generally, if you applied under regular decision, you can expect letters to begin arriving between mid-March and mid-April.
What is the last day to accept college offers?
Most colleges give you until May 1 to make your acceptance decision if you applied under regular decision or early action, although it is extremely important to double-check with your college to make sure it doesn't have a different date.
If you applied under early decision, then your acceptance to your choice college is binding and, typically, May 1 is the deadline for your deposit.
How do I know if I've been accepted to college?
Hang in there—you’ll know soon enough! Colleges that accept you will usually notify you of your acceptance between mid-March and mid-April, either through an email or as an update on your college application portal.
When should you accept a college offer?
You should accept a college offer once you decide for certain that the college accepting you aligns with your desires, goals, and personality. It’s important to research each college that accepts you to learn more about it and see if it’s the best fit for you.
Do I have to decline college offers?
Technically, you do not have to officially decline a college acceptance. If you ignore a college acceptance letter, admissions will consider that the same as a rejection. However, it's more respectful to decline. This generally only requires a few minutes to log in to the school's online system and reject the admission offer. Doing so will also free up an opportunity for another student on the college's acceptance waitlist.