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College 101: It’s Decision Time – College Acceptance

November 15th marks the first of many deadlines throughout the college application process. This end-of-autumn milestone is the last day to submit applications for early admission through Early Action, Early Decision or other special programs. It isn’t long before decision letters fill mailboxes across the country. So let’s talk college acceptance.

As college acceptance becomes more complex, knowing what to expect when you open that letter is no longer as simple as “yes” or “no.” In today’s College 101 feature, we help you understand the decision-making process so you can start planning for your future.


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The Basics: Admitted or Denied

college acceptance
The most common decisions students can receive are the coveted “admitted” and the dreaded “denied.” (Although most colleges will typically say “they cannot offer admission at this time.”) An admitted decision is simple enough: the school has evaluated your application and has decided you would be a good fit.

At this point, you are under no obligation to that school and only need to take further action if a special program requires it or you decide to enroll. Though a rejection may seem final, actions such as submitting updated transcripts or new test scores can sometimes lead the admissions committee to reconsider their decision.


Early Decision & Early Action

college acceptance
If you submitted any applications before the November 15th deadline, chances are you’re applying for an early admittance program. Though the specifics can vary school by school, most early admittance programs provide students with decisions right before or after the holidays. (Traditional deadline applications usually won’t see a decision until the middle of March at the earliest.)

Both Early Decision and Early Action applications will result in an earlier decision, however there is a key difference. Early Decision applications are binding, meaning the applicant is agreeing to enroll in the school if accepted. If you have a top choice school, this can be a great option. But if you haven’t decided where you want to attend yet, Early Action is the way to go.


Special Programs & Decisions

college acceptance
At some schools, certain majors or programs have their own unique conditions for admittance, beyond what the school requires. This programs include performing arts, fine arts, pre-med, pre-law and any accelerated programs. In these fields, if you get in could rest on the outcome of an audition, portfolio review or personal interview. Sometimes, students in this situation get into the college itself before their specific program of choice.

Admissions officers can sometimes choose to conditionally accept a student. This means you will get in as long as you meet certain conditions. This can require either keeping up a certain GPA or passing a specific course over the summer. Otherwise, they may place you on a wait list, meaning the school is at capacity and needs more time. Being put on the wait list is not a rejection–students are admitted off wait lists all the time. However, making sure you send recent transcripts and any new test scores can help speed up the process.