The College Search: When Will I Hear If I'm In?

Most colleges post or mail admissions decisions at roughly the same time. David Murphy tells you what to expect.

May 12, 2010 7:30:49 AM PDT
For Regular Decision candidates, the months that pass between filing the applications, and hearing whether you've been accepted, can be excruciating. Once the applications are sent, there's basically nothing you can do but wait.

And most colleges make you wait until the last minute. In general, college admissions offices announce their acceptances, denials, and those who are "wait listed" all at once. Some will do this on their website, usually around April 1. They all mail their decisions around this time, too.

Schools with earlier application deadlines will have quicker notifications. Applying to Penn State, in fact, turned out to be a plus, because they announced acceptances early and quickly. Our son knew had been accepted only a few weeks after applying, which was kind of a relief. Early Decision and Early Action candidates generally learn their fate before Christmas.

Love You Letters

Sometimes, a motivated admissions officer will give you and your student a sort of "wink and a nod" ahead of the official acceptance announcements. These come in the form of what's commonly refered to as a "love you" letter. This is usually a hand written note on University letterhead from an officer at a prospective school, noting how much they enjoyed reading your student's application, or perhaps noting how much they enjoyed meeting your student during an open house. These are often sent in January or February. If you get one of these, or any other kind of unsolicited correspondence once the application is in, take it as a very good sign. My daughter got a follow-up letter to this effect from the College she eventually attended. My son got at least two. In all these cases, not only was admission offered, but scholarship money was offered as well. Oh the other hand, both kids were accepted by and offered scholarship money from other schools that didn't send these letters, so it's not a bad sign if you don't receive these.

A good sign

While nervously watching your mailbox as acceptance day approaches, here's what to hope for: BIG envelopes. Rejections are usually delivered in small, standard business envelopes. Acceptance letters are included as part of large, sometimes rather regal, or lavish "acceptance packages" that come in nice, big envelopes the size of a new car brochure. Why? Remember, at this point, you've been accepted, but you haven't taken them up on the offer yet. They're still competing for your business, and they still have a very big stake in making themselves look like a class act. The packets, which are very fun to open, will include the college's complete offer, including financial details. If you're being offered Merit or Need-Based aid, you'll learn about it in this mailing. There may also be information on federal or institutional loans that are available to you, as well as the loan amounts. Generally, all financial information is grouped together and presented as part of a complete package, with the loan options, grants, and total annual cost all on one page. There may also be information on additional "Accepted Student" open houses, as well as details on housing, move-in dates, and freshman orientation, so you want to carefully go over everything in the packet and keep it handy.

MORE COLLEGE SEARCH ARTICLES: FAFSA, Submitting Applications, When Will I Hear If I'm In?, Wait List, When Must I Decide?, What If I Have Trouble Deciding?, Merit Aid, Need-Based Aid, Federal Need-Based Aid, Can I Ask For More Aid?, 529 Savings Accounts, Myths About The Cost, What Is Upromise?, The Best Way To Pay, College Troubles, College Depression, NCAA Athletics, Athletic Scholarships, The College Search Preface

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