Does anyone in admissions sleep the night of April 30?

For years, May has greeted us with National College Decision Day and all the white-knuckled anxiety that comes with it.

College decisions made around dinner tables come to the surface to affect job stability, budgets and the overall health of colleges across the country.

Our account executives have spent the past month conversing with schools nationwide, getting an early read on the climate that May 1 brings with it for 2018.

You may be surprised by what they’ve learned. Our research team certainly was!

Our Research Model

May 1 is the new Michael Jordan. Legendary and historic, sure. But with time, May 1 has grown about as many variable reactions as there are schools.

We’ve learned that some schools see no change worth noting on May 1, while others are using it as a metric for layoffs or budget increases.

While there are colleges who see a flood of deposits or withdrawals on the first of May, others guard against it with summer recruiting or early, nonrefundable deposit incentives.

On the whole, tier two schools seemed to see deposits slowdown in late February and those who were running ahead throughout the recruitment cycle experienced a screeching halt around the same time. But that’s not true of everyone.

We interviewed a sample set of 25 colleges across the country to show you how incredibly diverse this data is. And we’re hoping that after seeing it, you can get some shuteye tonight.

We grouped our schools into four categories regarding their self-assessed health leading up to May 1. The categories are:

  • For shorthand, we’ll call this D-

They have a chance to turn it around for sure, but these schools shared that they’re behind in deposits, some of them even well behind last year’s numbers.

Others in this group are only going to make their class by having a record high discount or by digging far into the waitlist pool.

  • These are the current C schools

Things are okay. They’re nervous about May 1 after most of them have seen applications and acceptances up this year without the deposits following.

They’re hoping that slow and steady wins the race for 2018.

  • The confident A schools

These schools are currently up in deposits and either mimicking a past record year or staying on track with past years.

While May 1 may take a hit, they’ve accounted for it and should still meet their goals.

  • The A+, nothing can go wrong now crowd

These schools are already up between 18% and 150% since last year. While they’re keeping a close eye on numbers, they’re feeling relieved already.

Now watch this: any school could be a D- or an A+.

We marked this sample group’s responses against their undergraduate size, their advertised acceptance rate and their U.S. News & World Report ranking only to find that each category is a completely mixed bag.

D- C A A+
% of Sample 36% 28% 16% 20%
Undergrad Size 1,174 – 17,176 544 – 9,258 288 – 3,550 723 – 2,308
Acceptance Rate 43% – 94% 45% – 70% 43% – 97% 36% – 89%
US News Ranking 55 – 73 55- 71 43 – 85 52 – 75

Findings from Our Sample Group

  • The five schools ranked lowest by U.S. News & World Report are all doing well!

One C, 2 As and two A+s.

Conversely, the five schools ranked highest by U.S. News & World Report have high diversity in their response to May 1; one school is 40% up and the another is 3% down.

National rankings provide no correlation with confidence or unease regarding May 1.

  • Using the threshold of a 2,000 undergraduate student body, we found that only ¼ of schools larger than this currently state that they’re doing well.

Of schools under the 2,000 mark, over half are at A and A+ levels. While it can be a greater challenge to recruit a larger class, student body size wasn’t a clear indicator of success through National College Decision Day.

That said, our study did showcase a sweet spot of schools with undergraduate student bodies of 1,500 – 2,000 with fully positive responses.

  • Acceptance rates provided no correlation with institutional success through May 1.

The five schools with the highest acceptance rates in our study earned two D-s, 2 As and one A+ that is up 40% in deposits.

The five schools with the lowest acceptance rates in our study earned two D-s, one C, one A and one A+ up 20% in deposits.

So, with the research showing that any school can be successful through May 1, regardless of size, acceptance rate or ranking, what’s the common thread?

Our research showed that all the schools displaying high confidence in the wake of National College Decision Day had two things in common:

a recent and strong branding campaign and a customized and effective search program.

Where are you in this process? And how can we help?

At The Parish Group, we have over 30 years of experience doing exactly this: finding the right students and working them all the way through the admissions funnel at the right school.

Contact us today ( to see how we can help you bring in your freshman class and prepare for a great year to come!