All You Need to Know About May 1 aka College Decision Day

Besides early decision, early action and regular decision deadlines, there is one more very important date to remember in the realm of college applications. It’s trouble-free to keep in mind but can also be easily missed if college-bound teenagers are too forgetful or fail to make the right choice of school on time.

The date?

May 1, which is also known as national college decision day or simply college decision day.

After receiving their acceptance letters, students have to finalize their choice of institution of higher education by college decision day.

So, in other words, they should have a clear idea of which school they will commit to enrolling by the said deadline. It’s also on May 1, when students have to submit their enrollment deposit.

Depending on their chosen admission plans, students have anywhere from almost five months to less than a month to make up their minds before national college decision day arrives.

May 1st

Can You Commit to a College Before May 1?

Accepted students can commit to attending colleges even before national college decision day arrives. As a matter of fact, they can respond in order to secure their slots as soon as they receive their acceptance letters. If accepted by multiple colleges, students should take their time in choosing a school.

The time frame for students to commit to a college is between the time they receive an offer to enroll and May 1.

So, in other words, for as long as they already have a hold of their acceptance letters from their top-choice schools, there is really no need for them to wait for college decision day to arrive to put down their enrollment deposit.

Getting an offer from multiple schools of your liking, however, is a game changer. Even though you are well past the stressful college application season, you will still have to go through the painstaking task of choosing one from the various institutions that accepted you. It may seem an easy task as the rejection factor is eliminated, but it’s not.

Due to this, students should refrain from rushing, especially if May 1 is still several weeks away.

They must spend the available time revisiting school websites and college ranking sites as well as rereading newsletters and brochures. Another very important task to carry out is to compare financial aid offers.

Before we proceed to the next topic, let’s answer this pressing question many teens are too shy to ask: is it required to inform the college that you will not attend it?

No, there is no need to let the college know that you are declining its offer to enroll. However, if you want to be courteous and considerate, it’s a good idea to inform the school about the matter.

The sooner that the admissions officers know about your decision, the sooner they can give your spot to someone who is on the waitlist.

When Do College Decisions Come Out?

Early decision and early action applicants usually hear back from colleges anywhere from mid-December to late February. On the other hand, regular decision applicants usually receive decision notifications by mid-March or early April. Accepted students have just enough time to compare offers and decide by May 1.

There are many perks that come with applying early to your top-choice school.

Increased admissions chances, earlier decision notification, reduced stress for the remaining months of high school — these are some of the most obvious benefits that early applicants can enjoy.

But there are some downsides to it, too. If accepted early decision, you will have to commit to the college.

Otherwise, you can always apply early action or regular decision to other schools, both of which, in many instances, have the same hard deadlines, although applying EA lets you hear back from the institution sooner than RD applicants.

No matter the admission plan and the notification date, you have enough time to make up your mind as to which school you will attend on or before national college decision day.

Informing the college of your choosing as soon as you have made a decision is recommended to keep the risk of missing the May 1st deadline — a lot of things could happen between getting an acceptance letter and college decision day.

In order to abide by the adage better safe than sorry, use your time wisely when comparing offers.

Hello May mug

Do You Have to Commit to a Rolling Admissions College on May 1?

In most instances, students who are accepted at colleges and universities with a rolling admissions policy do not have to commit to a school on or before national college decision day. Some rolling admissions colleges, however, give accepted students a hard deadline by which they will have to commit to enroll.

What’s so nice about applying rolling decision is that, unlike when applying to colleges early decision, early action or regular decision, there are no application deadlines to beat.

So, in other words, students have plenty of time to gather the required materials and perfect their applications.

But it doesn’t mean, however, that you should procrastinate.

That’s because rolling admissions colleges can only give away as many slots. If you apply rolling admissions late, you run the risk of running out of available slots.

Rolling admissions colleges keep accepting applications and filling slots for their incoming class until none remains.

Contrary to popular belief, regular decision colleges are not the only ones that can put applicants on a waitlist — some rolling admissions colleges waitlist some of their applicants, too.

Similar to applying as early as you possibly can in order to guarantee a slot, committing to a rolling admissions college helps ensure that the slot reserved for you will go to you.

Otherwise, if you show no urge to commit to the institution after a while, it’s possible for the admissions officers to give your slot to someone on the waitlist.

Is Being Deferred Better Than Being Waitlisted?

Almost always, being deferred is better than being waitlisted. It’s true that the acceptance rate for waitlisted students is higher than for deferred students. However, some waitlist colleges send decision notifications past May 1, and a rejection may mean missed opportunity to attend colleges that accepted students.

Read Also: Best ED2 Colleges

The ones who get deferred are those who apply early decision.

Simply put, a deferral means that admissions officers have already evaluated the college application but are yet to decide whether or not they will accept the student — they need more time to make up their minds.

The application will be reviewed all over again during the regular decision round, after which the student can be accepted or rejected. In some instances, he or she can be put on the waitlist, too.

Being waitlisted means that the student meets the minimum qualifications. Sadly, though, the college can’t offer him or her a spot for the time being.

Generally, the acceptance rate for waitlisted students is higher than for deferred students — around 20% vs. 5% to 10%.  But it doesn’t necessarily mean that being deferred is the worse of the two.

In most instances, colleges send decision notifications to waitlisted students past May 1.

Some will get accepted, while others will get rejected.

The problem with waiting to get admitted off a college waitlist only to receive a rejection letter in the end is that it can keep the waitlisted student from having the chance to attend another college that accepted him or her simply for failing to commit to it on or before national college decision day.

College Acceptance Letter

Should You Wait for a Waitlist College to Accept You?

Students who are waitlisted should consider the fact that the chances of getting admitted off the waitlist are low. While informing waitlist colleges that they are still very much interested in attending and reporting any academic improvements or achievements is good, it’s also wise for them to consider options.

Before anything else, let’s get one thing clear: before a college puts you on the waitlist, you must accept the offer to be waitlisted. Otherwise, it will give your waitlist spot to someone who agrees to be waitlisted.

Accepting the waitlist offer, usually, is as simple as filling out an online form.

The waitlist acceptance rate, as discussed earlier, is generally higher than the deferral acceptance rate. But it doesn’t mean, however, that colleges will admit approximately 20% of students off the waitlist all the time. According to a report by US News, it’s quite uncommon for most students to move up from the waitlist.

So much so that, in fall 2022, for instance, many colleges ranked by US News admitted as few as zero applicants off their waitlist. Liberal arts schools are notorious for having low waitlist acceptance rates.

Because of the small odds of being taken off the waitlist, it’s not uncommon for many college admissions experts to urge waitlisted students to consider their options.

While it’s true that they may not be their top-choice school, it’s a good idea to learn more about the academics, programs, campus culture and others to see if they can have a change of heart.

But fret not if you firmly believe that there is no other school for you but the waitlist college. You may try some of the following that can help increase your chances of getting admitted off the waitlist:

  • Accept the waitlist spot or offer without delay
  • Inform the college you are interested in attending
  • Improve your grades and test scores
  • Report to the college any recent achievements

What is Double Depositing?

In the world of higher education, as the name implies, double depositing means putting down a deposit at 2 or more colleges in order to accept offers to enroll. Usually, it is done by students to buy themselves more time to make a decision. However, in most instances, double depositing is unethical.

Submitting an enrollment deposit is a sign that the student intends to attend the college.

But just like when building a college list, it’s not that easy for most college-bound teenagers to decide which among the schools that sent them an offer to enroll to commit to.

Getting accepted by a single school is one thing. Getting an acceptance letter from multiple ones, especially if they are all considered wonderful choices, is another.

In most instances, students will have to get themselves acquainted with those institutions all over again, similar to when they were in the process of shortlisting colleges.

Some of those who can’t make up their minds on or before May 1 double deposit.

This allows them to commit to more than a single school before they are able to make a decision, thus keeping their spots at different colleges intact before they are ready to choose.

But there’s a problem: most colleges consider enrollment deposits non-refundable.

While that should not be an issue for rich kids, it can be a massive setback for other applicants who could take the spots of double depositors but instead would be either put on the waitlist or turned down altogether.

It’s because of this why double depositing is considered an unethical matter.

When is Double Depositing Considered OK?

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the only time when double depositing can be considered ethical is when a student is on a waitlist at one college and is accepted at another. This guarantees that he or she can enroll somewhere if turned down by the waitlist college.

Just like what’s mentioned earlier, some waitlist colleges send decision notifications after May 1. And getting a rejection letter makes the wait for a waitlisted student completely pointless.

It’s due to this that double depositing is considered perfectly fine in some instances.

Nothing can be more distressing to a high schooler than being waitlisted by his or her top-choice college.

But not being accepted to it doesn’t signal the end of his or her dream to earn an undergraduate degree. Because of this, the student may consider committing to the waitlist college and another by putting down an enrollment deposit at both.

While considered ethical, the fact remains that it’s very much unlikely for the student who double deposits to get a refund from the college they will not attend as most schools stipulate that enrollment deposits are non-refundable.

What Should You Do If You Miss College Decision Day?

Students who fail to beat the May 1 deadline may try contacting the admissions office in order to explain their situation and inquire about any policies in place that could help them get admitted. In many instances, students have no choice but to take a gap year or apply to rolling admissions colleges.

The vast majority of colleges and universities in the US are strict about college decision day deadline. Most of the time, institutions will no longer entertain anyone once it’s past May 1.

As soon as students realize that they have missed the deadline, they should spring into action right away.

Even though most colleges adhere to the May 1 deadline, as always, there are exceptions to the rule.

It’s for this reason why getting in touch with the admissions office should be an important step to take if you’re not successful with committing to the institution on time. Since it’s an urgent matter, consider contacting the admissions office by phone.

But make sure that it’s an extenuating circumstance that can be blamed for your situation — simply telling that May 1 slipped your mind won’t give you the consideration you are after.

Congrats if the school accepts you even after national college decision day!

While you can now make your tuition deposit to guarantee your spot in the incoming class, being accepted late comes with a few downsides.

For instance, there’s a huge possibility for you to miss out on some first-come-first-served amenities, including especially financial aid and student housing.

And in case the college refuses to welcome you past May 1, you can apply to a rolling admissions college. You may also take a gap year and apply to the same school as soon as the next admissions cycle starts.


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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