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When May 1 Is More Like April 1

During the countdown to May 1, colleges and universities must factor in how May Day resembles April Fool’s Day to students who are just kidding about their deposit or think the deadline is a joke.

Even on May 2, no college is sure about who will be enrolling, thanks to three categories of accepted students: those who have decided to come but haven’t told the college yet, those who have told the college they’re coming but won’t, and those who haven’t decided at all.

Encoura’s annual “Survey of Admitted Students” has found that around 15 percent of admitted students nationally don’t make their enrollment decision until after May 1. These students may or may not have deposited somewhere—but either way, they still aren’t certain on May 1 about their true choice.

Then there are the students who hedge their bets with multiple deposits or who “just in case” have paid a deposit somewhere they don’t really want to attend. With more than a third of Americans distrustful of the fairness of the admission process, it’s unsurprising that a substantial portion of families may feel no guilt in breaking the deposit rules.

Colleges and universities have typically relied on data trends from previous years to forecast the percentage of students who can be expected to deposit after May 1 and the percentage of “summer melt” students who say they will enroll yet actually won’t. But in a political and media climate that has been nudging Americans to become more cynical about higher education institutions, past performance may not be a good indicator of this year’s results.


Decision Timeline

“The Myth of May 1” discusses the disparity between when students decide on a college and when they notify the college. (Encoura)

Trust Level

36% of Americans think the college admissions process is unfair, with non-white people more likely to believe that. (AP/NORC)

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April showers have historically brought May flowers, but in the world of college admissions, the month of May could simply be a continuation of consternation. The laws of supply and demand are not bringing the anticipated “showers of deposits,” instead serving as a catalyst for a potential season of drought at many colleges and universities. This doesn’t mean a healthy harvest won’t occur—especially if campus communities proactively sustain their relationships with all students (and their parents/guardians/influencers) and continue to communicate, engage, and articulate the value of the school’s investment opportunity. Real growth happens with consistent doing. Keep planting the seeds of opportunity. Spring showers may then bring summer and fall flowers.