National College Decision Day, also referred to as College Signing Day, is a rite of passage that high school students work toward for years. It’s the deadline for incoming college freshmen to select a school to attend among the institutions that have offered them admission.
The road to College Decision Day has likely been a long journey. Most students have spent many hours researching schools, touring college campuses, writing personal essays and submitting college applications, and the anticipation of awaiting college acceptance letters have all culminated to this moment.
Students who’ve applied to their top schools during the regular decision application period, which typically sets January deadlines, will start receiving college acceptance letters in the spring. Shortly after acceptance letters are sent to applicants, they’ll need to finalize their choice of school by College Decision Day. Students usually also submit their enrollment deposit at this time.
Why Double-depositing Is Problematic
When you accept a school’s invitation to enroll at their campus, you’re confirming your attendance at their institution by placing your deposit. Double-depositing is the practice of accepting admission and placing a deposit with multiple schools.
Generally, this is done as a workaround for College Decision Day deadline. It gives the student more time to make a decision or negotiate their financial aid awards beyond the conventional deadline.
Since a student can only accept admission from one institution, it’s considered unethical to place a decision deposit with multiple schools. Not only is it seen as dishonest by administrators, but it also negatively affects other waitlisted students or rejected applicants who were turned away because you’re holding onto an admission spot.
Additionally, students who double-deposit risk having their admission rescinded—in addition to forfeiting their deposit—if the schools become aware of this occurrence.
When Is National Decision Day in 2023?
Each year, National Decision Day takes place on May 1 for students who applied during the regular decision or early action windows (in which students applied to a school early, but their attendance isn’t binding). This date is the collegiate standard, but some schools might enforce different decision deadlines.
For students who applied to a school through its early decision program—in which they’ve committed early to attend a particular school—the May 1 deadline sometimes serves as a deadline to submit their deposit.
What to Do Before College Decision Day
The best move you can make before College Decision Day is to go through the checklist below. These steps can help you make a final school decision with clarity by the deadline.
1. Double-check Deadlines
Although many colleges and universities adhere to May 1 as the final date for students to make their decision, this deadline can vary by school. Read your acceptance letter carefully and note the specific dates the school requires to confirm your decision and submit a deposit.
2. Compare Financial Aid Offers
A significant factor that might affect your decision is your financial aid package at each school. Review the types of financial aid you’ve been awarded as well as the amounts of each, and compare it against the school’s cost of attendance and your own out-of-pocket contribution.
If you need to negotiate your financial aid award, it’s imperative that you reach out to the school’s financial aid office as soon as possible. Aim to address any aid-related questions or requests early to avoid having it impede your decision by May 1.
3. Reflect on Which School Is the Best Fit
Based on the pool of colleges and universities that accepted your application, compare the academic and extracurricular programs offered and think on which school might serve you best.
If it’s been a while since your last visit—and it’s logistically and financially possible—consider another visit to the campus. Immersing yourself in the campus environment as an accepted student might lend a new perspective.
4. Prepare Any Requested Paperwork
You might be asked to fill out additional paperwork to formally accept your spot in the school. Take this time to review any necessary forms in advance so you have time to ask questions if something is unclear.
What Happens If I Miss the Decision Day Deadline?
If you miss the College Decision Day deadline, you risk losing your seat for the upcoming enrollment period. You might also need to redo the entire application process. These consequences can delay the start of your college experience.
Reach out to your college admissions office immediately to learn about your options. Depending on the school’s enrollment availability, it might offer an extension if the delay was because of an emergency or extenuating circumstance. However, this isn’t guaranteed.
In the event of the unexpected, it’s not a bad idea to have an alternate option ready if you miss College Decision Day. For example, you might decide to take a gap year or enroll in a community college while waiting for the next enrollment period.