College Decision Day: A Glimpse into America’s Future

May 1, 2023

May 1st—College Decision Day—has become an important milestone for students, their families, and institutions as college-bound freshmen accept offers of admission. So many factors come into play as students and families weigh factors such as academic programs, location, financial aid packages, and campus life to find a school that best fits their needs and aspirations.

Looking at college decision statistics across the United States, several trends emerge. These patterns can provide insights into the preferences and priorities of American high school seniors.

Acceptance Rates: Acceptance rates vary greatly among institutions, with some of the most prestigious universities boasting lower acceptance rates. For example, Harvard University had an acceptance rate of 4.59% in 2021, while the national average acceptance rate hovers around 68%.

College Attendance Rates: According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 66% of high school graduates in 2020 enrolled in college immediately after graduation. This rate has been relatively stable for the past decade.

College Choices: High school graduates often choose to attend public institutions, with about 77% of enrolled freshmen in 2020 selecting public colleges and universities. The remaining 23% opted for private institutions, demonstrating the continued appeal of public institutions for a majority of American students.

Financial Aid: College affordability plays a significant role in the decision-making process. In 2020-2021, 86% of first-time, full-time undergraduate students received financial aid at four-year colleges and universities. Of these, 61% were awarded grants, while 35% received federal student loans.

Geographic Preferences: Many students prefer to attend college within their home state or region. In 2020, 58% of enrolled freshmen chose to attend colleges and universities in their home state, with the highest in-state attendance rates found in the South and Midwest.

The selections that students make affect the trajectory of their lives and shape the future landscape of higher education in the United States. Moreover, these choices reflect broader social and economic trends, as college decisions impact the distribution of resources and talent across institutions and regions. The choices made by high school seniors also highlight the importance of continued investment in education, financial aid, and student support services to ensure that every student can attend the college or university best suited to their needs and aspirations.

No doubt that College Decision Day is a significant milestone in the lives of high school seniors across the United States. As they make their choices and embark on the next chapter of their lives, students are shaping the future of higher education and the nation.

At Liaison, we celebrate our employees and their families as they grow personally and professionally through higher education and the colleges and universities that provide them with that opportunity. We are proud to share these snapshots of our time enrolled at some of our favorite institutions. Do you recognize anyone from our team?


American University of Beruit

Azusa Pacific University

Baker University

Cal Poly Humboldt

Capital University

Christopher Newport University

Coastal Carolina University

Emmanuel College

Framingham State University

Florida State University

Gardner-Webb University

Loyola University Chicago

Robert Morris University

Smith College

Temple University

Union College

University of Mount Union

University of Pittsburgh

University of Massachusetts Boston

Wellesley College

Westminster College


You may also enjoy

Over the last three decades, Liaison has helped over 40,000 programs on more than 1,200 campuses more effectively manage admissions through its Centralized Application Service (CAS™) technology and complementary application processing and support services. The higher education technology leader supports its partner institutions’ total enrollment goals by pairing CAS with its Enrollment Marketing (EM) platform as well as the recently acquired TargetX (CRM) and advanced analytics software Othot.