Schools will generally make their admissions decisions about five months before the start of classes. They will notify you of their decision by mail. You will receive one of three possible types of letters from each school to which you have applied.
The first type is the acceptance letter. It may or may not be accompanied by a packet of additional information from the school; some schools send the packet out only after their offer is accepted. The letter normally provides a deadline by which you must make a decision. If you decide to accept the offer, sometimes a deposit will have to be provided right away to secure your spot. If you decide to decline the offer, you should do so formally, and not simply ignore the letter. Not only is it courteous, but it will also open up a spot for another student.
The second type is a waiting-list letter. You will be placed on a waiting list when the school would like to accept you, but has a limited number of spots available. The school will later send you an acceptance letter if a guaranteed spot becomes available (for example, when another student declines an admission offer as described above).
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The third type is a rejection letter. Schools reject students for a variety of reasons; sometimes highly qualified students have to be rejected simply because there were many more applicants than open spots. Rejection letters do not require a response.
Once you have received decisions from all the schools to which you have applied, it is time for you to make your own decision. This requires some serious thought and should not be rushed. However, a response to each acceptance letter must be made by the deadline provided.