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Admissions Decision

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Have you applied to university in the US and are now waiting for the admissions decision? As well as reading through the information below, you may find it helpful to read Peterson's article, College Acceptance: Making the Final Cut.

Timing: If you applied Early Action or Early Decision you will probably receive your admissions decision from the university by the end of December. If you applied before the Regular Admission deadline, you will likely receive your decision by 1 April.

Generally, the university admissions office will send you one of three admissions decision responses:

  1. Accepted

  2. Wait list

  3. Not Accepted

If you have been offered a place, you will then need to respond to your admissions offer. You can either:

  1. Accept

  2. Decline

  3. Defer

Three Types of Decisions

Accepted: If you received an offer of admission, congratulations! You will likely be receiving information from the university on why you should accept their offer and how to do so. You will also likely need to complete a form showing you have access to funds for your first year of study to begin the visa application process. A non-refundable deposit is usually required to hold your place, which will be applied toward your tuition costs. As you prepare to go, be sure to check out the Pre-Departure Information section of our website for helpful tips.

Please note, while US universities do not offer "conditional" admissions (receiving certain scores on your final year exams in order to be admitted), keep in mind you will be rewarded for doing well on your final year exams. Many academic departments will award advanced standing for students with A-levels, often awarding more university credit the better you do.  Bear in mind that in extreme cases, the university may re-consider your admissions offer if you do poorly.  Additionally, note that you will be expected to list your exam results on your CV as you job search after university and on any applications for postgraduate study.

Wait List: If you were placed on a waiting list, this likely means that while you have some very strong credentials, you were not considered to be as competitive as those being offered admission. However, the good news is that there is still a chance you could get an offer of admission. Whatever you do, do not assume you are going to be denied. If you stay calm, confident and patient, you could get more encouraging news down the road.  To improve you chances of this, make sure you follow instructions on how to remain on the waitlist and be professional and positive in your communication. If you were placed on a wait list for your first choice university, you may wish to send them an email confirming that you will attend, should you be accepted. The universities may select students that they know are likely to come and will decide quickly to attend their institution, should they be accepted. If you have any brief updates (academics, extracurriculars, etc.), you could email these as well.  However, we encourage you to be succinct.

Not Accepted: If you did not receive an offer of admission, our best advice is to not take it personally.  Remember, under most circumstances the admissions committee is faced with a very difficult task: choosing a student for a limited number of places among a very large applicant pool. If you believe something major was missed or overlooked in your application, do ask about it. Otherwise, if you decide to respond in some way to being denied, do so in a professional and positive manner. Your never know - you could apply to this university as a transfer or postgraduate student.

Adapted from Dr Donald Martin’s Road Map for Graduate Study: A Guide for Prospective Graduate Students:

Not accepted? You are not alone! View the article Before They Were Titans, Moguls and Newsmakers, These People Were...Rejected featured in the Wall Street Journal.

How to respond to your admissions offer

Accept: Contact the university and let them know that you would like to attend. The university will likely ask you to pay a non-refundable deposit towards your tuition. This is usually about $500. Once you confirmed that you are accepting their offer and have paid your deposit, you should look into the visa process. You should also visit the Pre-Departure Information section of the website for practical information and travel advice you should review before you go.

If you are having trouble deciding between multiple acceptance offers, remember to revisit the factors that were important to you when deciding which university you wanted to apply to (see undergraduate factors or postgraduate factors). Can you picture yourself getting involved on their campus? Did they offer you financial aid? Are you satisfied with the academic programmes on offer?

Take advantage of any social media platforms the university admissions or international office has available, for example YouTube videos or student blogs that provide insight into life on that campus. You may also ask the university admissions or international office if you can be put in touch with current international students or alumni in order to gather their opinions on the university.

Decline: If you have decided not to accept a university offer, let the admissions office know in a timely fashion so that they can admit students who are on their wait list.

Defer: If for some reason you would like to attend that university, but are not able to go for that academic year, you will have to ask the university permission to defer. US universities will likely not have a formal process to request a deferral, as fewer American students take gap years.  However, assuming you will be doing something productive during your year (such as working to save for your studies, volunteering, international travel), the university will likely offer you the opportunity to defer your place. However, please note, if you decide to defer there is a chance you may not be able to defer any funding offer you received. Therefore, double check with the university about their deferment policy before deciding.