Countdown to May 1: Are You Prepared for National College Decision Day?

College-bound teens have to remember a lot of important dates.

Early decision deadlines!

Early action deadlines!

Priority deadlines!

Regular decision deadlines!

And then there’s May 1, which practically signals the start of their college careers.

Also known as National College Decision Day or simply College Decision Day, it’s the official deadline for many postsecondary institutions in the US for admitted students to accept their offer to attend officially.

It’s done by filling out different application forms and submitting various necessary documents.

Putting down an enrollment deposit is also a part of it.

However, while many colleges and universities adhere to this nationwide deadline, some institutions permit students to finalize their decision at a later date, usually up to two weeks after May 1.

may 1

Mayday! May 1 Puts the Pressure On!

For students with a single acceptance letter, College Decision Day should not be that stressful.

There’s only one option, which makes deciding a no-brainer.

However, National College Decision Day looks and feels entirely different for high school teens with multiple offers to attend, especially if each is from a top-choice college.

Which school they choose can have a substantial impact on their college careers.

So, How Do You Commit to a College?

May 1 is a busy day for college-bound teens.

That’s because the day entails filling out numerous forms and signing various dotted lines — it’s all about formalizing your decision to accept the admission offer of the college you have chosen among all available options.

Submitting all financial aid requirements is one of the most important steps to take on May 1.

Some of the things you may have to provide include:

  • Social Security card
  • Driver’s license
  • Form W-2
  • Federal income tax returns
  • Untaxed income records
  • Bank statements
  • Business and investment records

Of course, what you have to include with the FAFSA will depend on your unique financial circumstances.

Deciding on room and board is also a vital National Decision Day task.

It means you should have read the room application and contract carefully before May 1 to learn about your prospective living arrangements and the cost of the dorm.

While the deadline for the application is usually May 1, it’s a good idea to submit it earlier.

Similar to most types of federal and institutional aid, housing is on a first-come, first-served basis — the earlier you apply, the better your chances of getting the room of your preference.

It’s also a must that you aim to register for the new student orientation early.

Doing so lets you get the schedule and seat that you like.

Failing to Meet the May 1 Deadline

College Decision Day is one to two months away from regular decision notification dates.

It’s three to five months away from early decision and early action notification dates.

Regardless of the application plan, there’s enough time to make up your mind before May 1 arrives.

Unfortunately, various situations can keep some students from making a critical decision on time.

Fret not if you’re one of them because there’s hope — while many American colleges and universities adhere to the May 1 deadline, some institutions leave some leeway to applicants.

It’s common for a lot of colleges to wait for students to commit until May 15, such as:

  • Agnes Scott College
  • Arizona State University
  • Baylor University
  • California State University, Stanislaus
  • Dickinson College
  • George Washington University
  • Ithaca College
  • Lafayette College
  • Louisiana State University – Baton Rouge
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Northwestern University
  • Scripps College
  • Temple University
  • University of Hawaii – Manoa
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Utah
  • Washington State University

Some even accept confirmations until the third week or last day of May!

There’s a way to determine whether or not May 1 is a college’s last day for you to decide.

All you have to do is access its Common Data Set (CDS), head to section C16 (notification to applicants of admission decision sent), and check the date specified in the “must reply by May 1st or within ___ weeks if notified thereafter”.

However, to be safe, contact the admissions office ASAP for information.

Hello May mug

Enrollment Deposit: A Token of Commitment

Sending the college a notification that you will attend in the fall is good during National Decision Day.

In some instances, unfortunately, that’s not enough.

Some colleges and universities may also require accepted applicants to provide more incontrovertible proof that they are guaranteed to attend them instead of other institutions.

You may have to put down an enrollment deposit to prove you will attend.

How Much is an Enrollment Deposit?

An enrollment deposit’s amount can vary from college to college.

Most institutions require students to pay anywhere from $100 to $400.

However, it’s not uncommon for some to ask for an enrollment deposit of as high as $1,000 or even higher.

Of course, your enrollment deposit will apply to your tuition for your initial semester — or you may waive it or request a reduction if you’re from a low-income background and the amount causes a financial burden.

Remember that an enrollment deposit is non-refundable.

If you eventually decide to attend a different institution instead of the one where you just put down an enrollment deposit, your money is for the college to keep and use as it deems fit.

Take your time before deciding to put down an enrollment deposit.

But keep in mind, too, that you might lose your spot if you fail to make an enrollment deposit on time.

What is Double Depositing? Should You Do It?

Double depositing is when students make an enrollment deposit at two different colleges.

One common reason for doing it is indecision.

Another common reason is being on the waitlist at one’s top-choice college, which has an average acceptance rate of only 20%, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) says.

Double depositing is unethical because it takes up space, which could go to those who want to enroll.

Think twice before you consider double depositing.

According to US News, some schools may rescind admission offers for those who make a double deposit.

College Acceptance Letter

College Decision Day vs. Instant Decision Day: What’s the Difference?

National College Decision Day and an instant decision day are two different things.

The former is about students accepting admission offers.

Meanwhile, the latter is about students getting admission offers.

Still, students who get an offer to enroll during instant decision days have until May 1 to make their final decision — they do not have to accept or decline an admission offer on the spot.

So, What is an Instant Decision Day?

An instant decision day is when students meet with college admissions officers, typically for about 15 minutes, and walk away with a decision, whether an acceptance or a rejection.

Usually, it takes place on high school grounds.

However, it also happens on community college campuses to recruit those who want four-year degrees.

Not Too Many Colleges Have Instant Decision Days

Numerous postsecondary institutions hold instant decision days, sometimes many times per year, but it’s rare for some of the most selective colleges in the United States to have them.

Virginia Tech and the University of Arizona have instant decision days.

Most of the time, students who wish to participate must register before college admissions officers drop by. There are also instances when students must meet a minimum GPA to be eligible to participate.

Read Next: 30 Colleges Accepting Applications After 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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