When Do You Get College Acceptance Letters?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

An empty college application form attached with US dollar bills

When Do You Get College Acceptance Letters?

For students that are getting ready to apply, or have already applied to the colleges and universities that they hope to attend, the waiting game that is baked into the entire college application process in the United States can be quite stressful. Students wait patiently at home and check their emails and mailboxes throughout the months to see if they have heard back from any of their top schools. While this process is something of a tradition for many students, it can also be really nice to know the exact answer to the question, “When do you get college acceptance letters?”

Of course, the answer to this question varies depending on what schools you actually end up applying to. While many schools have very strict application deadlines and take many months to respond, other schools are much more flexible and can alert students of their admissions status in a very short while.

a female student appears to be thinking intently

At AdmissionSight, we pride ourselves on preparing the high school students that we work with as best as possible so that they are never surprised or confused by any of the crucial aspects of the college application process.

This, of course, includes helping them develop as promising and attractive an application profile as possible so that they make sure to put their best feet forward when they finally apply to the schools on their lists.

This also includes offering information and answering any questions that they may have about the application process itself, including the timeline that different schools – and different kinds of schools – operate on.

So, whether you are planning on applying exclusively to Ivy League and top-10 schools, or big public schools, or small liberal arts schools, or a smattering of all three types and more, then you have absolutely come to the right place!

So, let’s get started on breaking down everything you need to know about university acceptance letters, how long college acceptance letters take, and much more.

Let’s go!

How long do university acceptance letters take?

This is a big question for sure, and it is an important one to know the answer to. Knowing the general timeline for a school to send out acceptance letters is going to save you a lot of anxiety and stress.

After all, there is no real reason to stress so much when the time in which a school that you hope to get into sends out its acceptance letters is still weeks or months away.

The general answer here is that the timeline that you can expect for a school to send out acceptance letters is going to depend a bit on what kinds of schools you have applied to.

It also depends on how a student decides to apply to a school, via early admissions or via regular admissions options. On top of that, timelines vary based on how a school decides to send out acceptance letters.

Of course, in previous decades, these letters were just that – letters, sent in the mail to the homes of applying students. However, now the process is a lot more streamlined for many schools. Many schools will alert students of their admissions status through an online portal.

Others will send emails directly to a student’s email address. There are some schools, still, that send out formal and physical letters of acceptance, but that is becoming more and more rare.

Early decision letters of acceptance

When do you get college acceptance letters for early decision or early action applications? For students that apply to schools via early action or early decision, there are several important factors to keep in mind. First off, students need to know that the application deadline is several months earlier than the typical application deadlines.

a female student writing unto a piece of paper

Usually, the deadline will be sometime in the month of November. When a student applies to schools via the school’s early admission option, it operates as a clear signal to the school that the student is heavily devoted to getting into that school specifically.

That is especially true when schools have binding early admissions options, meaning that if a student applies that way and gets into the school, they have to accept their spot! Because students apply early, and because these students are seen as something of a priority for the schools’ admissions officers, their acceptance letters come sooner.

Students can expect to hear back as early as December and as late as February!

Regular decision letters of acceptance

When do you get college acceptance letters for regular decision applications? Regular decision is the other admission option at schools and basically means that a student will be submitting their application along with the vast majority of students applying to the school that year.

Indeed, some schools only offer regular admissions as an application option. When it comes to regular admissions, the application deadline for most schools typically lands in the month of February.

a female stundent reading a letter

As for acceptance letters for students that apply via regular admissions, students can expect to start hearing back sometime between the middle of March and early April.

From there, students should be aware that May 1st is National College Decision Day. That means that students who apply via regular decision or a non-binding early admission option will have to make their decision by May 1 at the latest.

With that being said, there is a chance that student’s won’t hear an official decision until the summer rolls around. The reason for this is due to the fact that some students are put on a school’s waitlist.

If you are waitlisted, you will likely not hear back until the school has more insight into how many students that were offered a spot will actually accept that spot and enroll. Sometimes, students will not hear back from their top choice until as late as August.

If you end up getting waitlisted at your top choice and want to remain in the running, make sure that you have. Backup option in case you do end up not getting in such as taking a gap semester or year, enrolling at a community college, etc.

Colleges with fast acceptance letter turnaround times

If you want to know how long college application letters take, then you are also interested in learning about some of the better schools that are known to have the shortest turnaround time. The shortest turnaround time really comes from schools that offer rolling admissions.

a female student staring at her laptop

Rolling admissions is a process in which colleges will accept and evaluable applications as they are received.

Once the admissions cycle opens up, colleges will continue to look at applications until they fill up the entire incoming class. This offers fantastic flexibility for students and can lead to really quick turnaround times.

In fact, students can typically expect to hear back within four to six weeks of the day that they apply, and sometimes they can expect to hear back even sooner!

When it comes to the top schools that offer rolling admissions, it should perhaps not come as much of a shock that many of the best ones are larger state schools.

However, there is quite a lot variety beyond that, and there is indeed a lot of variety in terms of where you might want to go to school when it comes to class size, campus type, location and so much more, Take a look at the top 13 schools with rolling admissions in the United States:

  1. Purdue University – acceptance rate 67.2 percent
  2. University of Pittsburgh – acceptance rate 63.9 percent
  3. Penn State University –
  4. Rutgers University
  5. Indiana University
  6. University of Minnesota
  7. Binghamton University
  8. Michigan State University
  9. University at Buffalo
  10. Creighton University
  11. Loyola University Chicago
  12. Saint Louis University
  13. University of Tennessee

How the Ivies are different

Depending on how a particular high school student performed in high school, and what their goals are regarding what kinds of schools they want to attend for their undergraduate education, they may be interested in learning about the admissions timeline and process at the eight Ivy League schools.

Of course, the Ivy League is a group of schools that are known as some of the most prestigious, historic and selective schools in not only the United States, but also the entire world! Those eight schools are:

Each of these schools have their own relative strengths and weaknesses, and while they are often bunched together as a group, they are very different from one another and offer students very different educational experiences.

However, they do all have some similar components, and one similar that they have is the general experience that students have while applying to the schools. So, if you are curious about what the timing is when you apply to one or more ivy League undergraduate programs, then you have absolutely come to the right place!

Unidentified student holding a tab and filling out a college application form

Overall, it is important for students to know that the Ivy League schools mail admission decision letters two times per year.

The first time of year that a student can expect to hear back from an Ivy League school is in the middle of December. The second time that a student can expect to hear back from an Ivy League school is in late March.

As you may expect, the time in which any applying student can expect to hear back from the Ivy Leagues that they apply to depends heavily on what kind of application they send in. Let’s go over the three options; Early Decision, Early Action and Regular Decision.

Early Decision application dates:

The College Board-approved Early Decision Plan (offered by Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania) requires students to commit to going to the school in the event that they do ultimately get in.

This is known as a binding early admission agreement. When students apply to schools via Early Decision they are required to send in their application by the Early Decision application deadline, which comes in the month of November.

With that being said, students need to make sure that they are very confident in the specific deadlines of the schools that they plan on applying to, because not all deadlines are identical from school to school.

As previously mentioned, students will hear back about their admission status in the month of December.

Early Action application dates:

The other early admissions option approved by the College Board known as Single Choice Early Action plan (offered by Harvard, Princeton and Yale) is similar to the Early Decision option in the sense that it allows students to apply early and hear back early from the school.

One major difference, however, between Early Action and Early Decision is that Early Action is not binding. That means that students do not have to agree to attend a school that they apply to via Early Action in the event that they do get in.

The one thing to keep in mind is that if a student applies to a school via Early Action, they cannot apply to any other schools via Early Action or Early Decision. That’s why it is called Single Choice Early Action. The deadline for this application option also comes in the month of November. They’ll hear back about their status in December.

Regular Decision 

While students who apply to Ivy League schools via Early Decision or Early Action will be hearing back about their admissions status in the month of March, students who apply to Ivy League schools via Regular Decision can expect to hear back a lot later. Of course, they also get the benefit of a couple extra months to spend on their application.

Regular Decision applications are not due until early to mid-January. Typically, students will begin the first portion of their application cycle focusing on the school that is at the top of their list.

This typically is the school that they are applying to either Early Action or Early Decision. Once that application is sent in, students can then shift their focus to the schools that they plan on applying to via Regular Decision.

As you may expect, it takes a little while longer for students to hear back from schools if they apply via Regular Decision. The main reason for this is because of the sheer number of students that apply to schools via Regular Decision as opposed to the number of students that apply via Early Action or Early Decision.

For example, consider the fact that in 2021, Harvard received a total of 10,087 Early Action applications. From that pool, the school’s admissions committee offered a spot to just 7.4 percent of those students.

While 10,087 Early Action applications may seem like a large number of applications to get through, compared to the staggering amount of 57,435 students that applied to the school over all in the same year!

The number of Regular Decision students was 47,329. Only 2.58 percent of those students were ultimately accepted. While Harvard is a particularly challenging school to get into, and often ends up as the most selective school in the Ivy League and entire United States, a similar trend can be seen across the entire Ivy League when it comes to a much more forgiving acceptance rate being offered to students that apply via early admissions options compared to the students that apply via regular admissions.

So, not only do students who apply to schools via early admissions options get the benefit of hearing back from the school sooner, they also are giving themselves a better statistical chance of getting in.

Get more advice on college admissions

When it comes to applying to colleges and universities, whether a student is interested in Ivy League schools, public schools, liberal art schools, or a combination of all three, having as much information at their disposal is a major factor when it comes to the level of success that they will ultimately enjoy.

If you are looking to learn more about the admissions process in the United States and want to find out how to improve your chances of getting into the schools at the top of your list, consider reaching out to AdmissionSight to set up a free consultation.

When it comes to the students that we work with, 75 percent of them end up getting into either an Ivy League school or a top-10 program elsewhere in the country. If you want to learn more about that success rate and so much more, reach out to us today!




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