When Do College Decisions Come Out? – 2023-24

November 28, 2023

when do college decisions come out, acceptance letters

When do college decisions come out? If scenes in coming-of-age high school movies are to be believed, they arrive suddenly, ratcheting up dramatic tension. The more prosaic reality is that these decisions come out in stable patterns, helping you predict when they will arrive. Admittedly, having this knowledge doesn’t necessarily make the wait feel less dramatic. But it can help you mentally prepare for the final phase of the admissions process. By knowing when colleges will send acceptance letters, you can ready yourself for the process of accepting an offer of admission. You can also have more mental space to focus on important steps like finishing high school and applying for scholarships.

This article breaks down when you can generally expect decisions for regular decision, early decision, and early action admissions. It also includes information about when specific schools announced decisions last year, to give you a more granular picture of the announcement calendar. Finally, it provides some recommendations for what you can do to productively fill the vacuum while you wait.

When Do College Decisions Come Out – General Trends

To begin with, when do colleges send acceptance letters, in general terms? The bulk of college applications are submitted at the end of the summer, throughout the fall, and in early winter. Further, most schools require their accepted applicants who haven’t applied early decision to make a commitment by May 1st. Thus, the answer to the question “When do college decisions come out?” is, as you might expect, in the spring. However, we can break this broad window down even more by considering the different admissions plans or categories. The better question is “When do college decisions come out for regular decision, early decision, and early action applications?”

For the uninitiated, early decision (ED) and early action (EA) admissions plans are two major alternatives to regular decision applications. Early action refers to nonbinding admissions plans. Students who apply early action receive an early response to their application but don’t have to commit until May 1st. In contrast, students who apply early decision enter into a binding agreement to attend a specific school if they are accepted. Traditionally, early decision applications are due early in the application season. However, more schools are permitting a second round of binding admission programs. Early decision (ED 2) plans allow students to wait until later in the year to pledge their allegiance to a school. For more information about these various plans, you can review our article breaking down their different timelines. The key is, because plans use different application deadlines, decisions for those applications are announced in a predictable staggered pattern.

When Do College Decisions Come Out (Continued)

So, in general, when do college decisions come out for each admission plan? Here is a breakdown of the general patterns:

  • When do colleges send acceptance letters for Early Decision I?

Applicants usually receive admission decisions in December, the earliest in the admission season.

  • When do colleges send acceptance letters for Early Action?

Most applicants can expect to hear back in January, with some receiving decisions in late December and early February.

  • When do colleges send acceptance letters for Early Decision II?

February is when applicants using these plans can typically expect an announcement.

  • When do colleges send acceptance letters for Regular Decision?

Applicants will hear back in March or early April, the latest decisions in the season.

Because regular decision applications are still the most common, the bulk of decisions come anywhere from two months to just weeks before the May 1st deadline. A smaller number of decisions concerning early decision and early action applications arrive significantly earlier. However, it’s worth noting that not every college offers the same variety of admissions plans. Early decision II is relatively rare in the admissions landscape, for example. Also, some colleges offer rolling admissions. Rolling admissions allows colleges to evaluate applications as they come in. The decisions are also announced on a rolling basis.

Finally, it is still common to speak of “acceptance letters” when referring to college decisions. However, it’s rare for these decisions to arrive by snail mail these days, at least at first. Typically, applicants will receive decisions by email or notifications from institution-specific accounts, with physical letters arriving later.

When Do College Decisions Come Out – School-Specific Examples

Although universities tend to release decisions in similar patterns, announcement dates vary by institution. Thus, you might focus on specific schools to get a better idea of when to expect news. Fortunately, many universities offer information on their public websites about when applicants can expect decisions. The table below provides a small sample of popular universities that offer such information on the linked webpages.


School When do colleges send acceptance letters for EA/ED? When do colleges send acceptance letters for regular decision?
Brown ED: Mid-December Rolling announcements
Carnegie Mellon ED 1: Mid-December; ED 2: Early February Early April
Cornell ED: Mid-December Late March
Emory ED 1: Mid-December; ED 2: Mid-February Early April
Harvard EA: Mid-December Late March
New York University ED 1: Mid-December; ED 2: Mid-February Early April
Northwestern ED: December March
Princeton EA: Mid-December Late March
University of Chicago EA/ED 1: Mid-December; ED II: Mid-February Late March
University of Georgia EA: mid-November (Georgia residents), mid-December (non-Georgia residents) Mid-March
University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign EA: Late January Early March
University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill EA: Late January Late March
University of Pennsylvania ED: Mid-December April
Vanderbilt University ED 1: Mid-December; ED 2: Mid-February Late March
Wake Forest University ED 1: rolling decisions; EA: Mid-January; ED 2: Mid-February Early April

As you’ll notice from the table, the information provided by each school can be a bit vague. For myriad institutional reasons, schools rarely pin down exact decision dates on the calendar. And many schools provide no easily accessible information about when students can expect to hear back. For those schools, you might try to find information on when students in the previous admissions cycle received news. If all else fails, you can trust that schools will make announcements according to the general trends discussed above.

What Should You Do While You Wait For Decisions?

It’s difficult to sugarcoat: waiting for college decisions can be excruciating. It’s also easy to feel like you have no agency once applications have been submitted. The decision, ultimately, is out of your hands. However, there’s much you can do to stay calm and productive while you wait. Looking for and applying for scholarships is perhaps the most impactful action you can take during the waiting period. There is a dizzying number of private scholarships with application deadlines throughout the year. Taking advantage of these is a terrifically forward-looking means of funding your college education before you’re even admitted. For help getting started with the process of finding and securing scholarships, you can consult our article on the subject.

It is also important to stay invested in school while you wait. Many students may understandably struggle to focus on their senior year while college decisions loom, one contributing factor to “senioritis.” But you’ll want to stay academically sharp to be better prepared for the enhanced rigor of college. Plus, the last thing you want is for your grades to slip in the final stretch, potentially imperiling admissions offers.

When Do Colleges Send Acceptance Letters? (Continued)

There are many suggestions for how to stay collected and focused during the decision waiting period.  These include exercises for distracting yourself from decision anxiety and tips for navigating potentially triggering conversations with friends and family. Perhaps their most useful suggestion is that students keep their options open. We recommend keeping note of the pros and cons of each school you applied to. This can significantly help you make your ultimate decision as the decisions start arriving. Even more importantly, it can show you that you have several great options beyond your “dream school.”

When Do College Decisions Come Out – Concluding Thoughts

It is easy to wallow in the frustration that waiting can bring. After all, college decisions feel deeply personal and personally significant. But college decision calendars are guided by specific institutional timelines, not the dictates of your coming-of-age plot. You can trust that most decisions will come in March or early April, well before the May 1st deadline. A more select group of early decision and early action decisions can arrive anywhere between December and February. Across that five-month span, it is important to stay focused on what you control, like grades and financial support options. You can also keep an open mind about the schools you’ve applied to rather than putting all your eggs in one basket.

Above all, it is vital to remain plugged into the enthusiasm that led you to apply in the first place. It’s true that you never know what school you might get into. It is equally true that you can have a satisfying, meaningful life regardless of what happens after high school.