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What You Need to Know About Rolling Admission

Rolling admission is a good option to help lessen the strain of the college search for some students. But what exactly is rolling admission? Find out now!

When you come across the term “rolling admission” on a school’s website, don’t just scroll on by. Take the time to look closer at the fine print, because this admission policy gives you more options when it comes to applying to college. Whether you missed the November or December admission deadlines or you’re just now getting the college bug, going to school in the fall can still be an option if you choose schools that have a rolling admission policy. Here’s what you need to know.

What is rolling admission?

“Rolling admission means a college will consider student applications as they come in and offer decisions to students on an ongoing basis,” says Brian Jones, Director of Admissions at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Campuses with rolling admission deadlines don’t make all applicants apply by a specific date, and they don’t wait until after a certain point in the year before announcing admission decisions. Jones does point out, however, that highly selective colleges and universities are more likely to have prescribed deadlines and admission notification timelines. In fact, no Ivy League schools currently allow students to apply on a rolling basis.

How does rolling admission work?

Although the definition of rolling admission is generally the same at most colleges, some schools have specific policies, like priority deadlines, that impact rolling admission. “Priority deadlines ensure that students will receive full consideration of their application and are often used by colleges when they have a limit to the number of students that they can enroll,” Jones says. Campuses offering rolling admission will typically review applications on an ongoing basis at least up until their priority deadline. Unlike Early Decision, Early Action, and Regular Decision, rolling admission policies do not have set deadlines. However, most colleges that offer rolling admission will only keep the application window open until all spots are filled.

Related: Early Action vs. Regular Decision: Pros and Cons

Two ways to look at rolling admission

While many students choose to use rolling admission when they’ve missed the earlier application deadlines, you can also view rolling admission as a way to get into college sooner. Because colleges with this policy review applications as they are received, they also make decisions quicker, sometimes even in as little as four to eight weeks after receiving your completed application. This is different from colleges with a Regular or Early Decision deadline. In those cases, most admission counselors wait for the posted deadline to review all the applications and make acceptance offers. Look for the application period on school websites. In general, schools that offer rolling admission will begin accepting applications in August or September and continue through the spring. Some will even go as late as July for the fall term. 

But remember: Your college(s) of interest with rolling admission may still have a priority deadline you need to be aware of. “This usually means that students should get their applications in by that priority date in order to have the best chance of receiving merit scholarships and/or admission,” says Lindsay Fried, Independent Educational Consultant and founder of Simply Admissions.

Related: Waiting on Admission Decisions? 5 Things You Should Do

How to find colleges with rolling admission

If you have a list of schools picked out, search each admission page or call the office of admission to find out their admission policy. “Colleges and universities will identify on their website and in their application instructions if they have rolling admission,” says Jones. He also reminds students that admission staff from each campus are happy to answer these types of questions as well, so be sure to utilize them. If you’re just starting the college search process and you’re not sure where to begin or who offers rolling admission, here are some schools that do:

You can find many more schools that offer rolling admission by consulting one of the many lists created by credible websites. Here are a couple to get you started:

That said, it’s always a good idea to cross-check the reference by visiting the admission page on the college’s website. Their admission policies may change from year to year, and you want to ensure you're looking at the correct information. 

Related: College Search Resources Students Need to Know About

Pros and cons of rolling admission

Still not sure if rolling admission is right for you? Don’t worry—you’re not alone. The terminology used to describe the college process is often confusing and can delay or even prevent students from applying. To get a better idea if you should be looking for schools that offer rolling admission, consider these pros and cons.

Pros

  • You don't have to wait as long to receive an admission decision—a huge relief for many stressed students with their ever-growing college search to-do list.
  • “More than 25% of traditional colleges and universities offer rolling admission,” says Kevin N. Ladd, Chief Operating Officer for Scholarships.com.
  • Rolling admission is not binding, so you're able to see where else you're accepted before enrolling—a bonus for prospective college students applying to more than one school.
  • You can submit additional applications to colleges with rolling admission policies later if you want more choices—a great option for students who change their mind from when they applied in November to when they need to commit in May.

Cons

  • As time goes on, there are fewer spots available, Lindsay Fried reminds students, which makes it more competitive. “This can mean that qualified students may not be accepted if they wait too long.”
  • If you need scholarships, Fried says going with a rolling admission school might make it easier to miss priority deadlines and potentially lose out on money. 

Ultimately, having colleges with rolling admission on your list provides a good backup if your plans aren’t quite going how you’d expect or if you’re having a harder time deciding where you want to attend. Whether this is the right choice for you or not is entirely up to you, but it’s great that more and more schools are offering this alternative option to students to help ease the college search and application process.

Need more advice on filling out your applications? Check out our College Admission section.

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About Sara Lindberg

Sara Lindberg

Sara Lindberg is a freelance writer and former secondary school counselor. She has a Master of Education in Counseling and 20 years of experience working with middle and high school students and their parents. 

 

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