Most 12th grade students are familiar with hard deadlines for their college applications. There are early action/early decision (EA/ED) deadlines in November and regular decision (RD) deadlines in January.
What is rolling admission?
Some schools utilize rolling admission for their application process. If a school uses a rolling admission process, this means that admission officers review students’ applications as they receive them.
This means that rather than one deadline to review all applications, admissions officers will review applications throughout the application timeframe, typically from Summer to Spring. Students will receive their application decisions as admissions officers review them.
How does rolling admission work?
Applying through rolling admission is the same as applying through other application deadlines. The main difference is that you can continue to work on your application and submit it as soon as you’re ready. Unlike other application deadlines, instead of waiting months for a response, you can expect to hear back a few weeks after submitting your application.
You can apply to schools that offer rolling admission just as you would for a regular decision deadline. This will typically be through the Common App, Coalition App, or the school’s personal application portal. There is no special application to complete to apply through rolling admission.
Advantages of rolling admissions
There are a number of benefits to applying to one or more schools that offer rolling admissions:
More time to work on applications
Since the hard deadline for rolling admissions is significantly longer, you can spend more time working on various aspects of your application, like improving your grades, reviewing your personal statement, and bringing up your standardized test scores.
Once you’ve finished completing applications with earlier deadlines, you can spend a few more weeks editing, revising, and making sure your rolling admission applications are perfect. Use this time to your advantage to make sure your application is the best it can be.
Smaller application pool
Since your application is reviewed as it is submitted, one of the advantages of rolling admission is that you aren’t being compared alongside the entirety of all applications. Your application is reviewed and the admissions officers will make a decision based on the number of spots that remain. The earlier you apply via rolling admissions, the less students you are competing with for admission.
Unlike early decision applications, rolling admission deadlines aren’t binding. You can apply to as many schools as you want and you are not bound by a contract to attend that school.
Most importantly, rolling admission allows you to continue to apply to schools once you’ve received admission decisions from your early action and/or early decision applications. This is a great back-up option to have. If you get rejected or deferred from your top choice schools with earlier deadlines, you can work more seriously on their rolling admission applications.
Quick turnaround time
Another great advantage of rolling admissions is that you’ll hear back much sooner than schools that are waiting to receive all of their applications. You can expect to hear back with a decision from the school within six weeks.
This can allow you to plan accordingly. If it was your first choice school, great! No more applying. If it was a safety school, this is also great. You know you at least have somewhere to attend in the fall.
Drawbacks of rolling admission:
Despite many advantages, there are some drawbacks to consider when applying to schools with rolling admissions:
Spots fill up quickly
Despite the added time to work on your application, it should be noted that applying early to rolling admissions schools can significantly increase your chance of acceptance. Because admissions officers will be filling in their admitted class as they go, there are more spots to be filled earlier in the application process than if you were to wait until the final rolling deadline.
There are only so many spots to fill at the university and if you wait too long, those spots might not be available. While you definitely have time to curate the perfect application, you don’t want to wait too long. A perfectly qualified applicant can still get denied because there are no more spots.
More opportunity to procrastinate
On a similar note, the lack of a hard deadline allows for more chances to procrastinate. You might think to yourself “Well, it isn’t due tomorrow, so I can put it off for another week” until it’s mid-April and you still haven’t submitted. The earlier you apply, the sooner you hear back from the school, and the higher the chance you have of being accepted.
Who should consider applying rolling admission?
You should consider applying rolling admission if you feel your application could benefit from the added time to improve on your grades and test scores. This will give you time to study and retake the SAT or ACT before submitting your final application.
It’s also a good idea to apply to at least one rolling admission school as a safety or back up option if you are waiting to hear back from your top choice schools that might be more selective.
When should you apply to a rolling admission school?
As mentioned, it’s a good idea to apply to schools with rolling admissions if you feel you need more time to work on your application and/or as a back up option after you’ve completed applications for your other top choice schools with earlier admissions deadlines.
Strengthening your application
If you are applying to a rolling admissions school with the hopes of improving your grades or test scores, then you should wait to re-test and take the time to make your application as strong as possible.
Some colleges that offer rolling admissions will also have a priority deadline which offers students a higher chance of getting accepted. If this is a top choice school for you, you should consider completing your application by the priority deadline.
Securing a safety school
If you are applying as a safety or back up option, you should definitely prioritize your early decision or regular decision applications with earlier deadlines. However, don’t let this keep you from submitting your rolling admissions applications as soon as possible. To reiterate, in the rolling admissions process, there are more spots to be filled the sooner you submit, which means that submitting early is an easy way to boost your chances of admission. Similarly, even if you are extremely qualified, it can be much harder to be admitted if there are simply not enough spots still available as the final deadline approaches.
Here's a brief list of US colleges with rolling admissions
If you do decide to apply to rolling admission schools, there are many amazing schools that use this application process. Rolling admission schools are a great way to maximize your acceptances and spread out your application workload. Here is a list of colleges and universities that of offer rolling admissions:
- University of Central Florida
- Florida Atlantic University
- Pennsylvania State University
- Michigan State University
- University of Colorado – Denver
- Eckerd College
- Florida Gulf Coast University
- Arizona State University
- Indiana University – Bloomington
- La Salle University
- Lynn University
- New College of Florida
- University of Alabama
- University of Maine
- University of Tulsa
- Brooklyn College, City University of New York
- Humboldt State University
- Johnson and Wales University
- Washington State University