When it comes to college admissions, timing is crucial. Knowing when to expect college decisions can reduce stress and help you plan your next steps. In this guide, we’ll break down college decision dates – the whole timeline from when colleges send their acceptance letters, to when you’re expected to decide, how FAFSA timelines tie in with admissions, and how things might be a bit different in 2024. 

If you try reading about college decision dates, you may notice that the information online can be a bit confusing. It’s helpful to learn what the most common terms mean. 

College decision” typically refers to the choice made by a student (you) regarding which college or university to attend. College decisions in this regard refer to the decisions you need to make for your further education. The term “decision deadline” only ever appears in this context. Decision deadlines are the dates by which you need to commit to a particular college or university. Each institution may have its own specific decision deadlines, which can also vary by program and format. 

On the other hand, “college admission decision” specifically refers to the outcome of the college application process for a student. In this context, college admission decisions refer to the decisions made by schools, on which applicants to accept as students. It indicates whether a student has been accepted, denied, or waitlisted by a particular college or university. After colleges make their decisions regarding admission applications, they send letters to students deemed eligible, confirming their enrollment. These are commonly referred to as college acceptance letters, or simply decision notifications.

Here’s a short, handy glossary of common terms related to college admissions, applications, and admissions, for when you need a quick reference while going through information on these topics:

Application Deadlines

The designated dates by which students must submit their applications for admission to their desired colleges or universities.

College Admission Decisions

The outcomes of college applications, which indicate whether a student has been accepted, rejected, or waitlisted by an institution. Colleges or universities make these decisions, concerning your application for admission. 

College Acceptance Letters

Formal letters, issued by colleges or universities, to inform students of their acceptance into the institution.

College Decision

The final choice made by a student regarding which college or university they will attend.

Decision Deadlines

The specific dates by which students must make their college decision and notify the chosen institution of their acceptance or rejection of admission offers.

Decision Notifications

Notifications sent to students by colleges or universities regarding the outcome of their admission applications, typically indicating acceptance, rejection, or waitlisting.


A decision by a college or university to postpone a student’s admission to a future semester or academic year. Deferred applicants are typically asked to provide additional information or updates to their application, such as mid-year grades or achievements, for reconsideration during the regular admissions cycle.

Enrollment Deposit

A non-refundable deposit, required by many colleges or universities to secure a student’s place in their incoming freshman class. Enrollment deposits are typically due by a specified deadline and are credited toward the student’s tuition fees upon enrollment.


A status assigned to applicants who are neither accepted nor denied admission to a college or university but may be offered admission at a later time if spots become available. Students on the waitlist are usually notified of their status after initial admission decisions have been made.

College admission acceptance letter

College admissions offices may send admission decisions at various points of the year, generally between late winter and early spring. 

College decision dates vary depending on the type of application and the school. The four most common application types are regular decision, early action, early decision, and rolling admission.

Regular Decision (RD)

The most straightforward. With regular decision, students apply by a particular date–as decided by their college–and receive a decision at a later date. The most common regular decision deadlines fall between January and February, with admission decisions typically received in March or April. With regular decision, students typically have to make their final college selection by College Decision Day, i.e. 1st May (more on this later).

Early Action (EA)

In this application format, students can apply early and receive an admission decision earlier than regular decision applicants. The most common early action deadlines fall in early to mid-November, with admission decisions typically received in December.

Early Decision (ED)

With ED, students apply early and commit to attending the school if admitted. The most common early decision deadlines fall in early to mid-November, with admission decisions typically received in December. Early decision applications are binding, meaning students must attend the school if admitted.

What’s the Difference Between Early Action and Early Decision?

The main difference between the two is that early decision is a binding commitment, meaning that students who apply in this round must attend the selected college if they are accepted, while early action is non-binding, meaning that students can apply to multiple schools and have until the universities’ specific final decision dates to decide which college to attend.

Rolling Admissions

Some schools accept applications on a rolling basis, evaluating them as they come in. Admission decisions with this system typically take about 4-6 weeks post-submission. This means you can apply in virtually any month, and expect admission notifications 4-6 weeks later. 

Related: Colleges With Rolling Admissions

The table below highlights the typical timelines for each application type:

Application TypeDescriptionApplication DeadlineDecision Notification
Regular Decision (RD)Apply by set deadline, receive decision later. Jan-FebMar-Apr
Early Action (EA)Apply early, get a decision sooner. Early to mid-NovDecember
Early Decision (ED)Apply early, commit to attending if admitted.
ED applications are binding.
Early to mid-NovDecember
Rolling AdmissionsSchools accept and evaluate applications continuously. Throughout the yearWithin 4-6 weeks (after submitting your application)

In most years, admission decisions have been released by March and April (with some exceptions due to unforeseen circumstances like COVID-19). However, the exact decision dates have been known to vary significantly by school and application type. For specific college decision dates in the current year, the best sources of information are the websites of the schools you’re interested in. Note that not all schools may offer EA and ED, or have rolling admissions. 

It is also worth noting that some schools may offer Early Action II / Decision II or Regular Decision II options. These have later deadlines and decision dates than the initial rounds of early and regular decision. 

Knowing the different application types and their associated deadlines will help you plan accordingly to ensure you have enough time to gather materials, prepare your essays, and take any required exams.

College Decision Day date marked on calendar

National College Decision Day, also called College Signing Day, is a common deadline for incoming freshmen to select a college to attend. Each year, National College Decision Day typically takes place on May 1, for students who applied through regular decision or early action/decision. By this day, most students are expected to make their final college decision and choose the college they want to attend. Most colleges follow this timeline, requiring potential students to make their college decisions by May 1 each year. However, some universities may have different admissions timelines, which may require students to decide before or after May 1. 

In some circumstances, external factors may cause college decision dates to be pushed back. In such cases, the May 1 date or College Decision Day might be moved for that school or even for many colleges in a particular year. 

With the delays involving the new FAFSA, many universities are moving the 2024 decision date to sometime after May 1, but check with each college’s website for exact dates in this unusual year. 

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) timeline can significantly impact college decision dates for prospective students. Here’s how:

Processing Time

The FAFSA usually opens for submissions on October 1st of each year for the upcoming academic year. After submitting the FAFSA, it takes time for the application to be processed by the federal government and for colleges to receive students’ financial aid information. Processing times can vary depending on the volume of applications and any technical issues that may arise during the process.

Financial Aid Award Notifications

Colleges typically use the information provided on the FAFSA to determine students’ eligibility for financial aid programs. Once the FAFSA data is processed, colleges can then calculate and send out financial aid award notifications to admitted students. These notifications often include details about grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study opportunities.

Decision-Making Timeline

Many students may wait until they receive their financial aid award notifications before making their final enrollment decisions. The timing of these notifications, therefore, can directly influence the decision timeline. Students need sufficient time to compare financial aid offers from different colleges to determine the most favorable financial package.

Delayed Decision Dates

A lot can change for the college decision process if there are delays in the FAFSA processing or financial aid awarding systems. Colleges may receive applicants’ financial information from the FAFSA late. Due to this, students may experience delays in receiving their financial aid award notifications. This, in turn, may push their college decision dates back, affecting their ability to make timely enrollment decisions and secure their spot at their preferred institution.

The FAFSA timeline thus plays a critical role in determining college decision dates by impacting the availability and timing of financial aid award notifications. You should aim to stay informed about FAFSA deadlines. Closely monitor your application status to ensure you receive timely financial aid information to make better college choices.

A new version of the FAFSA was introduced by the Federal Student Aid (FSA) – an Office of the Department of Education – for the academic year 2024–25. This new version aimed to make enhancements to the process, by introducing changes to the FAFSA, designed to make the form easier to fill out. 

However, there were many delays with the form rollout. While it is usually made available by October 1, the Department began the soft launch of the 2024–25 FAFSA form only on December 30, 2023. Initially, the form was made available to students and families periodically while the Department monitored website performance and form functionality in real-time. By around January 8, 2024, the form was accessible 24/7.

This pushed-back rollout, in turn, meant that there would be a delay in processing and transferring students’ information to their desired colleges. The Department announced that the processing and transferring process for the new FAFSA would likely be delayed until the first half of March 2024. 

This means that most colleges must change their admissions timelines, allowing students more flexibility, and pushing back their decision dates. To this effect, some colleges have taken measures such as announcing new deadlines, granting “exceptional flexibility” in individual circumstances, releasing their own financial aid forms, switching to a rolling admissions format, etc.

While there are many speculations as to the reasons behind the multiple delays, the fact still remains that the college decision dates for the 2024-25 year will be quite different for most, and students should prepare accordingly.

Helpful FAFSA Resources:

  • FAFSA Roadmap
    An official roadmap outlining delivery dates for FAFSA resources.

  • FAFSA Updates, News, Changes
    On this page, you’ll find the latest scoop on updates to the current FAFSA forms or plans for next year’s FAFSA form.

  • 2024–25 FAFSA Updates
    Refer to this page for regular status updates and resources related to the 2024-25 form. 

Understanding college decisions and knowing the typical timelines can help you make more informed decisions, and plan your next steps better. It helps to know the types of college applications like early action, early decision, regular decision, and rolling admissions. Knowing when to expect deadlines and decision notifications will help reduce your stress. You should also track your financial aid options and stay updated about any changes to the FAFSA or related processes.

Ultimately, the best source of information on college decision dates is the website of every college you’re considering, and relevant offices of the Department of Education. We’re here to help you connect the dots with our college match tool that helps you find the colleges you’re searching for, and our blog that answers your college-related questions. 

Stay informed and keep learning!

Can a college admissions decision be rescinded?

Yes, a college admissions decision can be rescinded under certain conditions, such as poor academic performance, disciplinary infractions, dishonesty on applications, or violating an early decision commitment. Although it’s rare, it does happen, and colleges reserve the right to revoke an acceptance at any time.

What is Ivy Day?

Ivy Day is the day when most Ivy League schools declare their regular decision admissions results. It typically falls in late March or early April each year. In 2024, Ivy Day should be around March 29, 2024 (Friday). In 2023, Ivy Day was on March 30th, while in 2022, it was on March 31st.

What should I do while waiting for college decisions?

Use the waiting period productively by maintaining your grades, exploring potential majors, and engaging in fun hobbies or activities to keep you from stressing. If you haven’t yet submitted the FAFSA to apply for financial aid, do that now.