The college decision letters and emails are rolling in. Celebrate your acceptances, stay positive, and strategize with your college counselor about what you’ll do next. Whatever your application status, we have some tips on planning your next move.

College admission decisions

If You're Accepted

If you applied regular decision, you have until May 1 ("Decision Day") to notify colleges. Here’s what you should do after you receive your college acceptance letters:

  • Learn even more about the schools that accepted you by visiting campus one last time. Talk to real students, visit the dorms and cafeteria, and find out about key academic programs and campus activities.
  • Compare financial aid packages to see which makes the most sense for you and your family.
  • Talk to your college counselors. They’ve been cheering you on throughout the whole application process and are there to help you decide which school is right for you.
  • If you plan to defer your acceptance for a year to work, travel, or volunteer, make sure you’ve done your research. Talk to the admissions office about what it needs from you to consider your gap year request (and be sure to ask about any financial aid implications).
  • Notify colleges of your decision, and send in your deposit by the deadline.
  • Don’t slack off in school! Colleges expect you to keep your grades up all throughout senior year.

If You're Waitlisted

If you land on a school’s waitlist, you’ll need to decide whether you will pursue or decline the waitlist invitation plus make plans to attend another college. Follow these tips to make sure you’re covered.

  • Quickly respond to let the school know whether you will accept or decline your position on the waitlist.
  • If you accept,
    • Send a follow-up letter to let the school know why you would be excited to attend and the reasons why their college is still the best-fit school for you.
    • Stay focused on your grades and prepping for AP exams.
    • Request an interview, so you can reiterate your commitment to the school.
  • If you decline, reevaluate the rest of your list. What schools do you need to learn more about? Which schools can you still visit?
  • No matter what, get excited about the schools that accepted you. Decide which college fits you best and send in your deposit. If you do get off another college’s waitlist (and accept!), you’ll forfeit your deposit.

If You're Deferred

If you applied early decision or early action, you may receive a notification that your application has been deferred to the regular admission pool. This can happen if a college decides they need more information (like senior year grades or test scores) before making their final decision. Here are your priorities:

  • Work hard to keep your grades up.
  • If you plan to submit new SAT/ACT scores, prep thoroughly.
  • Keep in touch with the admissions committee, and make sure you’re sending them the information they need to evaluate your application.
  • Keep up your college search! Craft a list of dream, match, and safety schools —any of which is a great fit for your specific personality and interests. Work with your college counselor to stay on top of application deadlines.

If You’re Rejected

If you didn’t get the news you were hoping for, it’s okay (and normal!) to feel disappointed. But don't dwell too long! There are still some proactive things you can do to find your best-fit college.

  • Focus on the schools that said “yes”! It’s time to visit or research in more depth the schools that accepted you. Sometimes your dream school has been on your mind for so long, that it can overshadow the rest of your options. There are bound to be plenty of new-to-you programs, internship opportunities, and other on-campus gems to get excited about!
  • Stay positive! You might feel tempted to take a year off from academics altogether and apply to your first-choice school again next year. We caution against this route! It is easier to transfer to the school of your choice from a less prestigious school than to start again from scratch (even if you spend your year off doing something productive and character-building).
  • Lean on your college counselor. Your admissions counselor is a pro at helping students compare schools and decide which offer of admission—and financial aid package—to accept.

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