College Openings Update: FAQs

NACAC’s annual College Openings Update: Options for Qualified Students (formerly the Space Availability Survey) queries NACAC member postsecondary institutions on the availability of space, institutional financial aid and housing as of May 1. This date is significant because applicants who have received acceptances from the many colleges and universities who observe the May 1 national response deadline have until that date each year to accept the offer of admission from the institution they choose to attend. After May 1, these colleges and universities are able to assess whether they will have openings to accommodate further applications from potential students. However, some colleges accept applications well after May 1 as a matter of policy, and these rolling admission institutions are also encouraged to participate in the update if they are still accepting applications. For the fall 2020 admission process, many colleges that typically observe the May 1 response date have extended to June 1 or later.

Now in its 33rd year, the College Openings Update is designed as a tool for counselors, parents and teachers as they assist students who have not yet completed the college admission process. In cases where well-qualified students may not have applied to a range of institutions, or may have been turned down by all schools to which they applied, the Update provides an opportunity to be identified and possibly accepted by competitive institutions, and to obtain financial aid and housing.


Frequently Asked Questions

Has the number of colleges with openings after May 1 increased or decreased over the years?
The number of colleges on the update list as of the initial early-May deadline fluctuates, and colleges continue to participate after the list becomes available on NACAC's web site. Because the update is not a true survey, but a voluntary bulletin board style listing for NACAC member colleges, NACAC does not have meaningful trend data available. NACAC shares the following data to provide a general sense of how participation levels have changed in recent years.

# of Colleges Participating as of May Deadline​

​Final # of Colleges Participating






















Is space on four-year college campuses in the United States increasingly scarce?

It is difficult to definitively answer this question based on the results of this openings update. The Update is voluntary, and the population of potential respondents is limited to roughly 1,200 U.S. NACAC member four-year colleges (leaving about 1,000 U.S. four-year colleges unaccounted). NACAC member two-year colleges and international colleges also were invited to participate. In addition, the update remains open after the initial May 5 release date, and additional colleges and universities typically join the list after the initial deadline.

How many colleges and universities are there in the United States?

According to the US Department of Education, in the 2018-19 academic year, there were 2,345 four-year, not-for-profit colleges and universities and 955 two-year, not-for-profit colleges.

How do students apply for admission at institutions listed on the survey?
Students must contact institutions directly for application information. Listing on the survey implies only available openings for qualified students. Admission is contingent upon each institution’s review of application information.

What percent of colleges listed on the openings update are public/private colleges?
59 percent of US colleges on the Fall 2020 update are private and 41 percent are public.

Are two-year colleges included on the openings update?

The update consists mostly of four-year institutions. However, NACAC member two-year institutions were also invited to participate, and a small number appear on the list. Please note that if an institution of any level does not appear on the results, it does not necessarily mean there are no openings at that institution.

How long will the openings update information be available to students?
The update is available on NACAC's web site through July 30. Institutions listed on the update can modify their openings information until it closes. Students are advised to contact the colleges directly for the most up-to-date information.

Questions about the update can be directed to


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