Receiving College Decisions

Early Applications

When you apply early (whether Early Action or Early Decision), colleges can give you one of three responses:


Congratulations! You have admitted to the college and you can attend if you want! However, keep in mind that just because you are accepted, you still don't know how much college will cost (see below and read this blog about getting accepted to your dream school that proves to be unaffordable). Financial aid awards usually arrive a few weeks after the acceptance letter.


Unfortunately, this is the end of the road for this college. You can now concentrate on other applications (list of colleges with late deadlines), but remember to build a balanced college list!


If you are deferred, the college wants to reevaluate your application with the rest of the regular decision pool. Although it's not a rejection, depending on the college, it can be difficult to be admitted after being deferred. Make sure you have good back-up options while you pursue the strategies below.

What to do if you are deferred:

Sample Letters of Continued Interest (also see the waitlisted section below):

NY Times

Her Campus


Ivy Vine


Being deferred is similar to being waitlisted, just at a different point in the process. When you are deferred after an early application, you usually have time to focus on other applications. That's the biggest suggestion: focus on your other applications and make sure you have a balanced college list! Be conservative and apply to affordable safety & target colleges.

While most of your energy should be spent on your other applications, you should still continue doing well in school and update the admissions office about your recent accomplishments through a Letter of Continued Interest.

Regular Decisions

Whether you applied through Regular Decision, or you were deferred to Regular decision after applying early, most colleges provide their final decisions sometime between January and the end of March.


Congratulations! You are in, but still wait for the financial aid award!


I'm sorry! Focus on the colleges that you did get accepted to.

NACAC also publishes a List of Colleges still accepting applicants that you can check out.


Being waitlisted means that the college wanted to admit you, but they simply didn't have enough space.

Stay engaged! See the tips below to improve your chances of getting off the waitlist.

However, be realistic—chances of getting off the waitlist are small at most colleges.

What to do if you are waitlisted?

1. Accept your place on the waitlist! You can always take yourself off later, but don't lose the opportunity now!

2. Keep doing what you are doing! Keep your grades up!

3. Write a letter of continued interest to your admissions counselor or the admissions office.

Waitlist Information:

4. Do something extra (optional) (please don't go overboard)

For example, one student was able to meet personally with their admissions officer because they were an officer for their local HOSA chapter, and were put in charge of planning an activity for students during the organization's State Leadership Conference. They arranged a tour of of the college and were able to meet with their admissions officer while there; the admissions officer said that they will review their application again.

College Board

Other Possible Options

Conditional Acceptance

Some colleges offer conditional acceptances that provide an automatic transfer route after one or two years of attending a community college or a branch campus and maintaining a certain GPA.

This can be a good offer, you will just have to evaluate it against your other acceptances!

Accepted for Spring Term

Other colleges accept students for their spring term. This can also work, especially if you attend a community college in the summer & fall and are able to transfer those credits in during the spring. However, as a 2nd semester transfer student, be aware that your first-year experience will be impacted in terms of making friends & building a community.

Deferring Admittance

Some students defer admittance for 1-2 years to take a gap year, do a mission trip, or for other reasons.

Our advice is: deferring can be a good option if you have a concrete enrichment activity that you will do during that time (like travel, mission trip, starting a company, etc.). It's not a good idea for students who are scared of starting or don't have anything concrete planned.

Admissions Decision vs. Financial Aid Award

Acceptance & Merit Scholarship Award

Your acceptance often comes with a merit scholarship award. You should celebrate the acceptance and be proud of the merit scholarship award, but be aware of the full costs of that college.

If a (private) college has a total cost of attendance of $40,000 and they award you a merit scholarship of $20,000 per year, that's great, but it's still a long way from covering the full cost.

Even if you win a full-tuition scholarship, room & board are usually $10-15K per year. You will still need additional financial aid to help you afford the college!

Financial Aid Award

The financial aid award is a detailed breakdown of all sources of financial aid that you have received. This includes that merit scholarship that you were originally awarded, but also state, federal, and institutional need-based grants, work-study, loans, and anything else you have won or the university has included. See comparing financial aid awards for more detail.

Keep a balanced college list and don't commit until you have compared financial aid award letters! Do we sound like a broken record?