National College Decision Day: How to Secure Your Spot for the 2022 School Year

By Carol Katarsky Updated on April 28, 2022

If you're a high school senior preparing for college decision day, there are a few things you probably already have done in preparation for college, and others you may be putting off.

College applications complete, check.

College acceptance letters received, check. 

FAFSA completed and award letter received, check. 

Decision made about where you’re going next year … ughhhhhh, definitely not checked. 

It’s getting to that point in the school year when you need to make the final decision regarding where you're going to start your higher education. National Decision Day is fast approaching for many high school students. But, what does that mean and how can you make sure you're prepared?

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When is National Decision Day for most colleges?

May 1 has been designated as National College Decision Day. This date represents the deadline to submit your acceptance and make a deposit to attend the four-year college or university of your choice. 

That means you have a pretty big decision to make coming up. But, you’ll want to get your enrollment locked in as soon as possible. However, it's important to note that not all schools have their college signing day on May 1st. Many community colleges and technical schools allow you to enroll a little later.

That doesn’t mean you should procrastinate. With the May 1st deadline quickly approaching, you’ll want to start making your final decision soon.

Steps for students to take before National College Decision Day

Once you’ve decided on where you want to spend the next four to five years of your life, you need to inform your college of choice that you will be attending in the fall. This often requires sending them your acceptance letter along with a deposit

But before you drop this in the mail, make sure you have all of the required documents, which could also include important financial aid information. Contact the admissions and financial aid office to double-check that you have all of the items needed to secure your spot. 

If you’ve been accepted to more than one college, it’s also a good idea to let the other schools know that you will not be accepting their offer. This frees up space for students on the waitlist at those universities. 

Steps for parents to take before National College Decision Day

If your parents are helping you pay for college, they may be writing the check for the deposit due on May 1.

Make sure to remind them of this deadline and get the money well in advance. You should also scope out all paperwork for places that may require a parent's signature. 

If you have applied for financial aid, this is a good time to check the status of your award. There may be additional paperwork or documents that your parents need to fill out and submit in order for your financial aid award to be processed. 

As National College Decision Day nears, conversations with your parents are likely to increase. Use this as an opportunity to discuss money, financial aid, and other ways to pay for college. 

Just because you’ve accepted your financial aid award, doesn’t mean all of your financial needs have been taken care of. If you still have gaps you need to fill, talk with your parents about additional loans or ways to cover expenses before you head off to school. 

See also: Parents of Seniors: Here's What You Should Be Doing in March-May to Prepare for College

Top tips for deciding on the best college for you  

IIf you've had multiple acceptances, deciding where to go to college can feel like an overwhelming decision. But you can make it easier by focusing on a few vital factors. Try not to get distracted by the smaller stuff. This is a big decision that will impact the rest of your life. You'll want to focus on the big picture. 

Some of the most important factors include: 

  • What majors are offered — If you know what you want to study, evaluate each college's program and offerings to see if one will better prepare you for your intended career. Not entirely sure what you want to study? Take a look at the overall variety of each school's programs and make sure they have coverage in all the areas you're considering. If you might want to work in the arts, the science- and tech-focused university probably isn't your best bet no matter how great a school it is.

  • Location — Where your college is located can affect both your finances and your enjoyment of your time in college. Do you want to be in a big city? A quaint but vibrant college town? Or maybe a rural area is more your speed? And don't forget to take into account how far away the colleges are and the costs you'll incur traveling between school and home. Another consideration is the cost of living in the towns your potential schools are in. Even basics such as groceries, gas, etc., can cost a lot more in some areas than others. 

  • Size — Do you want to be on a huge college campus with tens of thousands of other students and the opportunities that provides or would you prefer a smaller student body where you might make fewer but tighter connections?  

  • Total costs and financial aid — Make sure you compare the total costs of (the price minus your financial aid awards) at each school. Any dollar not covered by financial aid is a dollar you'll have to pay now, or more likely, take out as student loans and pay later with interest. 

These factors will be critical to your college experience as well as the total cost you pay for your education. Gather all the information you need and spend some time evaluating it (getting your family's perspective on this can help as well) before you make a final decision. 

I missed the deadline — what happens now?

Since the May 1st deadline is widely known, many colleges don't accept late decisions. Some universities may give an extension beyond this date, but don’t bet on it. If you’ve missed the May 1st deadline, you need to contact the college admissions officers at your intended university’s admissions office immediately.

Make sure you tell them about any extenuating circumstances that may have prevented you from getting your paperwork and deposit in on time. It’s also a good idea to follow up with an email to the person you spoke with to recap the conversation and thank them for their time. 

While this is an incredibly exciting time in your life, it is important that you remain diligent with your deadlines so you can start your college career off on the right foot.

Your next steps after Decision Day

There's a lot of work that goes on during the last few months of your senior year of high school. And most of it is done by the time you make your final choice on a college and send your deposit to enroll. Most of it — but not all of it. Fortunately, the tasks left to do once you're college-bound are generall less stressful and more fun. 

For starters, make sure you keep up with your extracurricular activities: any sports of clubs you belong to, prom, graduation, and all those other end-of-senior-year rituals. You'll cherish these moments more than you might think. 

As you wrap up your high school activities, you'll need to also spend some time thinking about college. First and foremost, where you're going to live. College housing options can be quite varied. Depending on the options and preferences you have, you may need to give some thought to choosing a dorm or apartment, finding a roommate (or a few), or deciding if commuting to school and living at home is feasible. 

Once you've graduated, you'll want to enjoy your summer — as you should! — but you'll also have to spend some time thinking about what you need to bring to college and, what, if anything you need to buy before you go. Nitro's Ultimate College Packing List can help you break down this rather large task into something more managable. 

Stay one step ahead of college planning with Nitro

Planning for college — and especially deciding on which one to attend — is an incredibly important part of your life. Most high school students will need some help handling it all. At every every step in the process — from managing your applications, understanding your financial aid and student loan options, and more — Nitro is here with practical information and resources you can you use. To start, make sure you check out our monthly $2,000 no-essay scholarship. (Your parents can apply too!)

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About the Author
Carol Katarsky

Carol Katarsky is a contributing writer for Nitro. She is an award-winning journalist with extensive experience writing about both finance and education. Her corporate and non-profit clients include AIG, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and the Project Management Institute. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, son, and one cat more than she should. Read more by Carol Katarsky