If you’re applying to college for the first time, you will want to learn about all of the college admission and application processes. There is a lot to understand and it can get confusing, especially when learning about rolling admission.
Read on to learn about rolling admission and the kinds of schools with rolling admissions. Then, armed with more information, you can decide if rolling admission is the right path for you.
What Is Rolling Admission?
Rolling admission means there is no firm deadline. With rolling admission, officers of admission review and evaluate admission applications on a first-come, first-serve basis. Students can continue to apply until all spots are filled and the university disables the online application.
Nonetheless, even though students can apply at any time, universities with rolling admission will still have to have their class decisions made by May 1.
Rolling admission is a mutually beneficial process for the student and the admissions office because it gives all involved more time and less stress. Admissions staff start to evaluate applications on a rolling basis and return admission decisions on that same rolling basis. Students who apply to college using rolling admission can expect to get their admission decision back between four and six weeks after they apply.
Some colleges with rolling admission also offer a priority deadline, which guarantees that students will get their admission decisions back by a certain date. If you don’t meet that priority deadline, your application will still be reviewed but there will be no guarantee that you will get your admission decision back by a certain date.
It’s also really important to check all of the deadlines for the entire process, not just for the college application process. Financial aid and housing applications may have earlier deadlines, so you will want to submit your rolling application in time for these other deadlines.
Regular admission is different in that applications usually have a hard, Regular Decision deadline between mid-December and the end of January. With rolling admission, students can usually start applying as early as October.
Schools with Rolling Admission
Many large schools, especially large public state institutions, offer rolling admission. This is partially because of their size and the sheer volume of applications they receive. Rolling admission colleges may also be small and private, though.
There are no rules or checklists for what makes schools offer rolling admission. You just need to research each institution you are applying to and check if it offers the option.
Some top colleges like Penn State University, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst all offer rolling admission. Notice that they are all large public universities in this case.
Private universities like the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University, institutions in the Ivy League, do not offer rolling admission and instead accept applications based on Early Decision and Regular Decision deadlines.
When Should You Apply for Rolling Admission?
College admissions experts suggest that it is best to apply sooner rather than later, even if there is no set application deadline. Because admissions officers are reading applications on a first-come, first-serve basis and admitting qualified students until they fill all spots, applying later has an obvious drawback.
If you wait too long, you may not be offered admission because there simply isn’t any space. You won’t know if you were denied admission because of the quality of your application, or because you didn’t apply early enough. To avoid this disappointment and confusion, it’s best to apply on the earlier side of the spectrum.
Are Rolling Admission Decisions Binding?
Rolling admission is the same as regular admission in that it has no binding or special conditions. Because rolling admission is not binding and allows you to send in your application early, it has some obvious benefits.
By submitting your application early, you can get done with the process earlier and get your decisions back earlier. This is similar to Early Decision processes in terms of timeline, but it is completely different in terms of implication. While Early Decision is binding, rolling admission is not at all binding.
Why Apply Using Rolling Admission?
Rolling admission is a great option for several reasons. Generally, not having a hard deadline reduces stress from the college application process as a whole. It means you can really spread out your workload as you balance your senior year of high school and all of your college applications.
You can also front-load your work and submit all of your rolling admission applications early on in the process. This means that you would typically get your admission decisions back early, something that could give you peace of mind as you move through the rest of your senior year.
Applying without a firm deadline also gives you much more flexibility with taking standardized tests and submitting test scores. For example, if you take the SAT in September but aren’t happy with your scores, you could take them in December and still submit your rolling application on time, considering there is no set application deadline.
Every college and university has its own policy regarding test scores—whether they are required and if so, how late you can submit them. Some schools will let applicants send their test scores after they have sent in their application while others won’t consider later test scores. Double-check this as you’re considering the rolling admission process and taking your standardized tests.
Use this introduction to the world of rolling admissions in your continued college admission research and be sure to review our other resources on the subject.