How to Respond to College Acceptances and Rejections

That's right: Either way, students should follow up with schools. Here's how to handle replying to both college acceptances and rejections.

When the college envelopes begin arriving, applicants are eager to learn whether they have been accepted to their top schools. Regardless of what the letter says, students should respond back to letters of college acceptances and rejections.

Whether your student is communicating his or her intentions or making alternate plans, schools like to hear from the applicants.

Here’s additional information about how to craft these replies and when to send them.

Know the deadlines

According to Shane Lewis, associate director of admissions at Oakland University, National College Decision Day is May 1. Admissions officers see that as the date when students will make their final decisions and put down any necessary deposits at their school of choice.

Lewis says students who have been accepted, decide to go elsewhere and even those who have been rejected should contact the colleges regarding their status.

“It’s helpful for us to know whether the students will or won’t be attending our school,” Lewis says. “If they are attending, we give them the next steps in the enrollment process, help them accept any scholarships, set up financial aid and register for orientation.”

Accepting an invitation

It’s important to let the school know as soon as possible once you’ve made your decision, Lewis says.

For those who accept their invitation to attend Oakland University before May 1, there are admitted student events and other activities to celebrate their accomplishments throughout their senior year.

“We have lots of events to get them ready for the next step, meet with other students and introduce them to campus,” Lewis says.

While May 1 is the official day colleges use for admissions acknowledgements, it’s helpful to know an applicant’s decision sooner rather than later.

In order to help applicants make their decisions sooner, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is open for applications earlier in the year. It opens Oct. 1 of the student’s senior year; a few years ago, that opening date was Jan. 1 of the senior year.

This earlier date helps students know what financial aid, scholarship awards and other assistance will be available to them much sooner. Lewis says it often helps them solidify their decisions earlier than before.

“We’ve been able to put the scholarship information together and get the financial aid packages out to students in late November and early December now that the FAFSA deadline is earlier,” Lewis says. “This helps the students lay everything on the table and make their decisions earlier in the year.”

When students respond to colleges earlier with their intentions, he said it allows for more planning and opens spots for those who have been waitlisted or need to apply again.

This is a key reason why responding to college acceptances and rejections matters.

Turning down an acceptance

Lewis says students who are not planning to attend the school should also reach out if they would like to cancel their invitation to the school, so they can be removed from mailing lists and other communications.

This communication can happen via phone or even email.

Responding to rejections

This might surprise some students, but schools also like to hear from students who were not accepted.

“If the students are not offered admissions, we always recommend that they reach out to an admissions officer for their options,” Lewis says. “We work really closely to help those students develop coursework for their local community college, so we can eventually consider them as a transfer student.

“They might not be admitted right now, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.”

At Oakland University, admissions officers are able to talk to students and give them the best options.

Other colleges have transfer programs with local community colleges or can help students come up with a game plan to make their college dreams a reality.


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