For high school seniors, college decision day is among the most exciting days in the school year. Especially in schools with a college-going culture, it’s an opportunity to celebrate college-bound community members. You can also provide an example for younger students of what success looks like.

For colleges and universities, the same day is just as important. In fact, when planned the right way, it can be a central part of your marketing effort to increase student enrollment.

High schools across the country will celebrate this event in a wide range of ways. They might:

  • Host signing days
  • Prompt students who have decided to wear college gear
  • Take a number of other steps to celebrate college acceptance

But as you recruit that same senior class, it also offers an opportunity to start the college experience months before those new freshmen first begin their journey on campus. These six college decision day celebration ideas can help your new students feel welcome. Start building excitement and a sense of belonging as your incoming class finalizes their postsecondary plans.

When Is National College Decision Day?

National College Decision Day takes place on May 1st every year. For most schools, it is the date high school students submitting their college application should make a tuition deposit to receive full financial aid consideration.

That May 1st date also coincides with other relevant deadlines for attending four-year colleges. For example, states like Pennsylvania, Maine, and West Virginia require a FAFSA submission and college application by that same date for higher education state grant consideration.

Of course, the date is not necessarily binding. For schools that are not highly selective, graduating seniors can still announce and finalize their college choice after May 1st and receive the same admission consideration. In addition, FAFSA delays have led to many schools extending their decision deadlines this year.

Still, National College Decision Day has become a tradition in high schools across the country that is not unlike National Signing Day for athletes. Like that college signing day, it’s the perfect opportunity for school districts, high school counselors, local businesses, and universities alike to converge around a common date that celebrates college access.

6 College Decision Day Celebration Ideas for Institutions

Increasing student engagement doesn’t begin with welcome week. Instead, it’s an ongoing process that can reach as far back as the moment you first send out those acceptance letters. Consider adding these six college decision day celebration ideas to your toolkit to ensure your incoming students get excited about your school, which ultimately increases their chances of enrollment and retention.

1. Interactive Social Media Campaigns

Social media has become a staple in increasing student enrollment. Especially at the decision stage, it can also be a vital engagement mechanism.

Encourage your incoming students to share their decisions on social media. Even better, encourage them to use a unique hashtag and your college’s logo in exchange for some type of benefit. Contests, giveaways, or even the promise to share their content on your own pages for increased exposure can all follow through on that encouragement.

A few strategies can help you make this step easier. For example, you can provide not just the hashtag to use but also the accounts you want them to tag. Of course, sharing social media templates with incoming students makes the process of sharing their decisions even easier.

2. Live Stream Welcome Sessions

Who said that the information had to wait until orientation? Live-streamed sessions can build a proper welcome to future students. They can also make them immediately feel like they’re part of the community.

Invite high-level university officials, up to and including your president, as guest speakers. Your incoming class also wants to hear from current students and graduates who are now thriving in their fields.

The welcome session can include some informational content about your institution, what it’s like to be a student, and upcoming events like orientation. But above all else—and like all of the other college decision day celebration ideas on this list—it should focus on building the excitement that makes this day and time of life so special for your prospective students.

3. Virtual Tours and Information Sessions

If your students want to know what life at your school is like, a virtual tour might be the perfect opportunity to provide that information. Use it to showcase your campus, residence halls, and any other facilities they might have questions about. Consider building a virtual tour specifically designed for your admitted students. Go deeper into each area and avoid a feeling of ‘being sold to’ that earlier-funnel virtual opportunities might bring.

At their best, virtual tours like those offered by Concept3D can help your school tell its story. The tour becomes an immersive experience, custom-built to drive engagement and community. It’s even better when you can supplement it with a live information session. Host faculty members and student organizations who can answer questions about anything from campus life to different student organizations.

4. Personalized Welcome Packages

As anyone even tangentially involved in enrollment knows, getting a student to admission is only half the game. Yield matters just as much, especially as yield rates continue to decline due to students applying to more institutions.

As a result, the time of using a general acceptance letter as the only means of communication is over. Personalized welcome packages can go a long way toward keeping that excitement up and making the decision easier as college decision day gets closer.

Welcome packages can come in all shapes and sizes. Branded merchandise, informational brochures, and personalized notes from faculty or admissions counselors are all relatively easy to put together. You might also want to consider going further, like emailing or mailing vouchers for promotional items like T-shirts or other swag when they finally get to campus.

5. On-Campus Welcome Event

Of course, not all of your college decision day celebration ideas have to be virtual or mail-based. Consider, for example, the possibility and potential benefits of an on-campus welcome event on May 1st for your students making their decisions.

For this type of event, you’ll have a plethora of opportunities to make students feel excited. Host a photo booth, raffle off swag, and offer free food and games. Of course, you can also host more campus tours. Reiterate what they might have already learned about your institution earlier in the process.

More than anything, your welcome event should be worth attending for incoming students. Be sure to invite their families, and consider coordinating directly with the school counselors for your key feeder high schools. Then, make it a fun day that’s memorable for everyone involved

6. Welcome Messages From Faculty or Current Students

Finally, consider involving current members of your community in your communications flows. University leaders, professors, and even current students can all have a powerful impact with something as simple as congratulating incoming students on their decision and expressing excitement about their upcoming shared college journey.

Of course, you’ll want to plan out this type of communication carefully. It must flow naturally within your other communications to admitted students and avoid message overload that could annoy recipients. But generally speaking, shifting the emphasis from institutional to community voices at this stage in the funnel can make a significant difference.

Why Host College Decision Day Events?

Prospective students celebrating and participating in college decision day celebration ideas


Any of the above college decision day celebration ideas have the potential for success. But they will require institutional investment and commitment. It’s a good thing, then, that the tangible benefits of these activities can have a massive impact on your institution—in more ways than one.

Celebrating Student Achievement

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of most college decision day celebration ideas is putting the focus on your incoming students in the best possible way. This is your opportunity to celebrate the academic achievements and hard work your future students had to do just to get where they are now.

Celebrating the achievements of the students who have been accepted to your school can also become a vital confidence booster. It helps students realize all of the accomplishments they have achieved just to get to where they are, which can make college significantly less daunting as a result.

Building Excitement and Community

Celebrating your incoming students’ accomplishments is also an opportunity to begin building the community they will come to rely on once their first year in college begins. Connecting them to each other and current students, faculty, staff, and alums integrates them into campus life. It creates a sense of belonging that will stay with them long beyond the first day of classes.

Increasing Enrollment and Retention

Finally, and partially as a result of the above, these college decision day celebration ideas can play a core role in increasing your enrollment and retention success. Students become more likely to choose your school. Because of the community they’ve built (along with the information they’ve received), they’ll also be more likely to stay enrolled at your institution beyond the first year and through graduation.

Enhance Your Decision Day Festivities With Concept3D

Add it all together, and celebrating National Decision Day is both inherently attainable and beneficial. If you can engage your students, provide them with relevant resources, and make them feel welcome, they’ll become more likely to both enroll in and succeed at your institution.

To get there, you’ll need the help of some digital tools. Concept3D’s virtual map tool helps you build those virtual connections. Also, our event management system translates them to the real world. Ready to get started? Request a Concept3D demo today.