Unraveling the Mystery of the College Application and Decision Process

Posted by Nathan Moe on 10/23/2018

In this article we will lay out the general timeline for the college application and decision process. Knowing these dates will help you and your student anticipate deadlines and reduce the stress that comes with rushing or procrastinating. We hope to help make your college preparation process to go more smoothly, effectively, and successfully.


Distinguishing Early Decision, Early Action and Regular Decision

Early Decision is binding: You apply early and sign a contract agreeing to attend the college, if admitted, in exchange for the college's early admission decision. If admitted, other college applications must be withdrawn. You usually receives a decision by December.

Early Action is non-binding: You apply early, but do not sign a contract agreeing to attend the college, if admitted, in exchange for the college's early notification of the admission decision. You generally receive a decision by December but are free to pursue other college applications.

Regular Decision: You apply prior to the regular deadline and await a decision. You generally receive a decision by April 1.

Colleges Decide - April 1 Decisions Released

Acceptance: You are accepted at the college of your choice and you decide to enroll. You must send your non-refundable deposit by May 1 to secure your spot for fall. You may write to the other colleges to which you were admitted and decline their offers; this makes your place available for students on the wait lists.

Deferral: The Admission Committee requests more information about you, such as your seventh-semester grades or an additional faculty recommendation. Deferrals may be received as part of the Early Decision or Action process.

Denial: You are not accepted. This should not be taken as a personal rejection or slight. Louis Hirsh, Director of Admission (retired), University of Delaware notes: "First of all, nothing we say should affect how you view yourself and your future. When a university says 'no' to a student, it is generally making a judgment based on its own particular institutional needs. Don't take it as a judgment against you."

Wait List: The college is definitely interested in you. Moving off the wait list will depend on the number of accepted applicants who actually enroll. Please see the college adviser for help with a strategy for getting in from the wait list.


You Decide: May 1 National Decision Day

You are undecided and choosing among several colleges: Visit the colleges again. Stay overnight in the dorm, visit several classes. Choose the college with the widest opportunities for majors, study abroad, and studies across all disciplines. Trust your instincts: does it feel "like a fit"? Do you truly want to be at that college?

May 1: This is the deadline to make a commitment and tuition deposit at your chosen college. It is a violation of college admission ethics if you make a deposit at more than one college OR if a college requires a deposit before May 1. You may make a deposit before May 1. You may also make a deposit at one college and remain on the wait list of another college.

Regardless of your student's college decision, it is important to plan ahead, accordingly. This will ensure the overall process is easy, productive, efficient, exciting, and even fun for you and your student.

If you're interested in more information about the college process, we have a few resources available below and you can select the "College Preparation" tag to see all our college related blog posts.

Webinar: Chart a Course to College  for your Middle School Student           WCA College Fair - October 25th, 2018 Visit Fifty Colleges in One Evening

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