Last Chance to Choose: Applying to College After May 1st

National College Decision Day is when millions of incoming freshmen students commit to their chosen colleges.

It happens every May 1st.

The process of notifying a postsecondary institution of one’s intent to attend it can vary from college to college — it’s usually in the acceptance letter from the admissions office.

In most instances, it entails putting down an enrollment deposit, which will count toward the student’s tuition.

You can commit to a college even before College Decision Day arrives.

But can you commit to a college after May 1?

You can commit to a college past May 1 if the institution accepts applications after the College Decision Day, usually two to four weeks after the date, or has a rolling admissions policy.

Meanwhile, a school that adheres to the first of May deadline is likely to offer your spot to someone else, such as someone on a waitlist, if you fail to put down an enrollment deposit on time.

Not committing past May 1 to an early decision college means you did not honor the binding contract.

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Is There a Reason to Commit to a College Early?

Committing to a college before May 1 secures your spot. And if the institution reaches out to you about whether or not you intend to attend, it means it considers you a highly desirable candidate.

However, before you enroll in a college early, make sure you are 100% sure it’s the one you like to go to.

Avoid committing just because you want the college selection process done and over with.

Of course, an acceptance via early decision means you have no choice but to commit to the school because the admission plan is binding — you can back out only if you have a good reason.

Pros and Cons of Committing Early

There are advantages to applying to college before National College Decision Day.

But then there are also disadvantages to it.

Unless you got accepted via a binding admission plan like ED, it’s a must that you weigh the pros and cons of committing before May 1 to guide you in making the right decision.

Advantages of Committing Early:

  • It secures your spot in the incoming class
  • It gives you access to better housing options
  • It enables you to enjoy better financial aid offer
  • It allows you to focus more on the rest of your senior year of high school
  • It helps you and your family plan your moving to college better

Disadvantages of Committing Early:

  • It can keep you from comparing various generous financial aid packages
  • It might get in the way of you attending a better-fit school
  • It might not allow you to refund your enrollment deposit
  • It could leave you feeling stuck in a choice made without enough thought

Read Also: Is College Worth It?

What to Do Before You Decide to Commit to a College

I cannot state enough the importance of being completely certain before you put down an enrollment deposit to a particular institution without waiting for May 1 to arrive.

One Reddit user turned down offers from other colleges to commit to a particular school, only to have regrets afterward.

So, can you change your college decision after May 1st?

You certainly can!

However, you might not be able to get back the enrollment deposit you put down, which is typically non-refundable, and the college might immediately give your spot to someone else.

Before you finalize your choice of school, consider the following:

  • Wait for more acceptance letters. Especially if you have a competitive application, chances are enrollment offers from various colleges will pour in, some reaching your mailbox later than others.
  • Compare offers. After getting your hands on all acceptance letters, compare institutions once again, just like when comparing schools during the college list-building process.
  • Read award letters and negotiate. Believe it or not, you can request to ask your top-choice college to give you more award money if you are unhappy with the figure in the financial aid award letter.

Can You Change the College You Commit to After May 1?

You can change the college you commit to after National Decision Day.

Such is possible even if you applied to it via early decision and you are obligated to attend as a result, provided that you have a reason valid enough, such as the cost of attendance is too high for your family’s budget.

However, given that an enrollment deposit is usually non-refundable, you might not get it back.

What Happens If You Don’t Commit by May 1st?

Some colleges and universities observe College Decision Day strictly.

Meanwhile, others are more lenient and still accept applicants, usually up to two weeks past the important date.

That said, the answer to the question “Can you still commit to a college after May 1?” can vary tremendously, depending on the institution’s rules and regulations about accepting incoming first-year students.

The admission plan through which you got accepted is a role player, too.

Getting Bad Rap Within the College Admissions Community

Getting an acceptance via early decision means you have to commit to attending.

That’s because ED is a binding admission plan.

However, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will pay a hefty fine or spend some time in jail for backing out of the contract — the worst that could happen is you could be blacklisted by the institution and others you applied to.

The college may also contact your high school, which might decide to not send your transcript to other colleges.

You are likely to lose your enrollment deposit as well if you already paid it.

In most instances, the only acceptable reason that an ED school will let you go is that you cannot afford to go to the institution, especially because the financial aid package isn’t enough.

Losing Your Spot Entirely

Failure to respond to the college and put down an enrollment deposit by May 1 almost always results in you losing the spot reserved for you, which is just as good as a rescindment of your offer to enroll.

Coincidentally, it’s after May 1 when many college admissions officers grab the list of waitlisted students.

On average, colleges and universities admit 20% of the students on the waitlist.

The waitlist admittance rate can be higher or lower than the said figure, depending on the number of accepted candidates who decide to accept the offer to attend.

Easily, your spot can go to a waitlisted student if you fail to commit on or before College Decision Day.

As a result, you have no choice but to take your enrollment deposit to another institution.

Read Also: 30 Colleges Accepting Applications After May 1

Nothing Happens — You May Still Apply

In some instances, losing your mind wondering what happens if you don’t commit to a college by May 1st is completely pointless because the college application process simply goes on as usual.

Many colleges still wait for the responses of admitted students after National Decision Day.

Some give students up to two weeks to pay the enrollment deposit.

Others give them up to three weeks or more!

To determine whether or not the college of your choosing adheres strictly to the May 1 deadline, access its Common Data Set (CDS), which is a good source of application-related information.

Then, take a look at section C17 (reply policy for admitted applicants).

The Ohio State University – Columbus Campus, for instance, allows admitted students to commit by May 1 or within three weeks after its admissions office has notified them.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) accepts replies up to two weeks past May 1.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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