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What Is Rolling Admission?

If you’re applying to college, you may have heard the term “rolling admission”. It’s a fairly popular college admission process that differs slightly from regular admission. Here’s what you need to know about rolling admission. 

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What does rolling admission mean?

Rolling admission is very similar to regular admission, with one key difference. Colleges with rolling admissions evaluate applications as they arrive instead of waiting to evaluate all applications after a hard deadline. Schools with rolling admissions typically open up their submission period in the fall, but sometimes as early as July. Colleges continue to evaluate applications until they’ve filled all the slots for their incoming class. This process can continue as late as the summer months, depending on how quickly spots get filled. 

The absence of a hard deadline in the rolling admission process leaves students with a very wide window of time to submit their applications. This can be advantageous both for students seeking a quick admission decision and for students looking to submit a last-minute application. Keep in mind that unlike early decision and early action, rolling admission isn’t an option you choose. It’s simply the manner in which some colleges evaluate applicants. 

Also see: When should I apply to college?

Benefits of rolling admission

Quick turnaround time 

The rolling admission process is quicker. Because colleges evaluate applications as they are received, you can expect to hear a decision within 4-6 weeks. The earlier you apply, the earlier you’ll get your answer. This quick turnaround time makes it easier on students as they map out their plan for applying to various colleges. 

Less competitive admissions process 

If you apply earlier rather than later, the admissions process can be less competitive. Because your application is reviewed as it arrives, you’ll be compared to a smaller pool of applicants. Of course, the level of competition rises the longer you wait to submit your application. So if you’re looking for a leg-up in the admissions process, it’s best to submit your application as soon as possible. 

Your decision isn’t binding

Rolling admission decisions aren’t binding, unlike the early decision admission process. This means that if you’re accepted by a college that utilizes rolling admission, you’re not obligated to attend that school. Rather, you have until the school’s deadline to decide whether you will attend. This leaves you with the flexibility to apply to as many other schools as you want. 

Opportunity for last-minute applications 

The long admission window associated with rolling admission gives students the chance to submit last-minute applications if needed. Rolling admissions are sometimes open as late as the summer months meaning you can still apply after other schools’ regular admissions deadlines have passed. This is a potential path for students seeking a last-minute college option. 

Don’t miss: How many colleges should I apply to?

Drawbacks of rolling admission

Spots can fill up quickly

Although waiting until the last minute to submit your application is certainly an option, it’s not advised if you’re seeking the best chances for admission. Candidates who meet the criteria for admission are essentially admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. Colleges only have a certain number of students they can accept, so the chances of admission decrease the longer you wait to submit your application. Some colleges even set a priority deadline, meaning that students who apply by that date have a better chance of being accepted. 

With this said, the intent of rolling admissions is not to be exclusionary and is meant to offer students a more flexible application option. Still, students should know that rolling admissions is a “first-come, first-served” process.

Potential for procrastination

On a similar note, the lack of a hard deadline lends itself to a higher chance of procrastination when it comes to submitting your application. It may be tempting to put off your application until next month, but it’s best to go ahead and knock it out now. Remember that the earlier you apply, the sooner you’ll hear back from the school and the higher the chance you have of being accepted. 

Financial aid and housing

It’s important to keep in mind that while rolling admissions may stay open longer, that does not mean that things like the FAFSA, scholarships or housing opportunities stay open longer. If financial aid and scholarships are things you plan to utilize, make sure that your application date can accommodate those. 

Similarly, if you plan to live on campus somewhere, understand when your window would be to choose your housing. Waiting till everyone else has applied might mean that you have less housing options to choose from, which could impact your time at that college. 

How to make the most of rolling admission

Submit rolling applications first

As you are compiling your list of colleges, pay attention to deadlines and prioritize schools that utilize rolling admission. There’s generally only an upside for students who are applying early. 

Meet priority deadlines

As we’ve mentioned, some colleges set a priority deadline for their rolling admissions. For instance, Penn State has a priority deadline of December 1. While students can still submit applications after this date, they have a better chance of being accepted if they apply before the deadline. If the college you’re applying to has a priority deadline, you should make every effort to meet the deadline if you want the best chances of admission. This is particularly important for colleges that are more selective. 

Plan ahead for the SAT / ACT

Many students end up taking the SAT or ACT more than once to achieve the highest possible score. If your goal is to submit a rolling admission application early during your senior year, you should give yourself enough time to take the test multiple times. As such, consider taking the test for the first time during fall of your junior year. This will give you the chance to test again in the spring if needed. 

See also: When should you take the SAT?

Ask for recommendation letters early 

The first half of senior year is a busy time for teachers and counselors who are occupied with writing recommendation letters. Be respectful of their time and request recommendations at least a month before you’d like to submit your application. If you want to submit your rolling application shortly after the submission period opens, consider asking for recommendations at the end of your junior year. This provides teachers and counselors with plenty of time to craft a thoughtful letter. 

Plan your essays in advance 

It’s a good idea to start thinking about your essays as soon as schools and the Common App release their essay prompts. Common App prompts remain nearly identical from year to year, while colleges typically release their supplemental prompts by July or August. This means you have the opportunity to read essay prompts months in advance and start mulling over ideas. The summer is a great time to start planning your college essays. 

Related: Overview of common scholarship essay prompts

Take care with your application

Although you should aim to submit your rolling application as soon as possible, this doesn’t mean you should sacrifice its quality. Submitting your application early won’t help much if you didn’t give it your best effort. The best way to submit a rolling application early and give it the proper attention is to plan well ahead of time. If you take advantage of the tips we’ve listed above, you won’t have to race against the clock to put together a solid application. 

Popular colleges with rolling admission

Many schools across the country utilize rolling admission, including several Public Ivies. Here’s a few well-known colleges that have rolling admissions:

Don’t miss: How to choose a college

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • Colleges with rolling admissions do not have a set application deadline; rather, they have a date where they open for submissions and then continue reviewing applications until all spots are filled
  • This typically means a quicker turnaround time for your application
  • If you hope to attend a rolling admissions school, it’s a good idea to get your application in as close to the opening date as possible to maximize your chances
  • Oftentimes, rolling admissions schools are still accepting applications when other schools have made their decisions. This makes them a good option for late applications and for students who didn’t get into any of their chosen colleges Key Takeaways

Frequently asked questions

Does rolling admission mean no deadline?

Rolling admissions does not mean there is no deadline. Rolling admissions will be open for a period of time just like any other application period. However, when it is open and for how long may vary, as some schools may keep it open longer or close it sooner if all their spots are filled. Pay close attention to the schools you are applying to as each one will likely have different dates and periods of enrollment.

Is rolling admission harder to get into?

Rolling admissions is not designed to be more competitive. That being said, as we mentioned above, because students are submitted on a first come, first serve basis it can be more competitive the longer you wait. It is generally a good rule of thumb to apply sooner rather than later.

Is it better to apply for regular or rolling admission?

It really all depends on you and what your goal is. If rolling admissions opens sooner than regular decisions and you’re satisfied with your application, then there’s not much harm in applying earlier. If rolling admissions opens after regular admissions closes and this is a school you would really like to go to, then you should of course apply sooner. How you are admitted to a school, whether through regular, early action, or rolling admissions, does not matter too much in the grand scheme of things. The important thing is that you are admitted!