You’ve heard of different ways to apply to college, such as Early Action, Early Decision, and Regular Decision. Rolling admissions is another policy through which some colleges accept students. Colleges with rolling admissions have a set timeframe, usually of about six months, in which candidates can turn in their application materials so that students can apply without the pressure of a strict deadline.
The rolling admissions window generally runs from early in the fall to late in the spring. Many colleges keep submissions open until all of their intended spots in the incoming class have been filled. Admissions officers evaluate applications as soon as they are submitted online. Candidates are notified within two to eight weeks after the application has been received, depending on school policy.
Since these colleges make their admissions decision on a first-come, first-served basis, you should still aim to send in your materials as early as possible to ensure you don’t miss out on a spot.
You can find out if a college offers rolling admissions by looking through their website. This can also help you identify the exact window in which you can submit your materials. For example, University of Wisconsin – Madison says, “Students may begin submitting applications on August 1st. Admission decisions are made on a rolling basis, and applications will be processed as long as space is available. Students who apply early have the first options for class registration dates, housing, and course selection.”
Temple University, on the other hand, frames their policy as, “Students are accepted based on Rolling Admissions and Early Action and have a greater chance of being accepted by applying before the Early Action deadline.”
Wake Forest University has an official Early Decision deadline of November 15, but also reviews their ED candidates on a rolling basis. You can apply as early as August 1 to make sure you have the best chance of admission (assuming your application materials are as good as they can be!).
Penn State has an Early Action deadline, a priority submission deadline, and then opens their rolling admissions window until spots are filled.
If a college with rolling admissions is at the top of your list, it would be advantageous to submit your materials by the first half of the submission window. Not only would you have a better chance of admission, but getting results earlier could take pressure off your shoulders if you’re accepted to a college you’re excited about attending.
Are Colleges with Rolling Admissions Right for You?
The biggest advantage of applying to a college that notifies you of your admissions decision more quickly is that you don’t have to wait. For most ED and RD applications, the wait is at least 2-3 months, which can be highly anxiety-inducing. Some universities with rolling admissions notify students as early as two weeks after receiving their materials.
Another pro is that you could apply at the last minute. Many students start panicking that they won’t be admitted to any college during the application cycle. If it’s February or March, and you’re stressing out at the last minute, it can help to apply to a college that you know you’re well-qualified for and are excited about that still has an open application window. You’ll find out a few weeks after submission, and if admitted, can relax a bit and await the rest of your admissions decisions.
Rolling admissions may encourage students to feel too relaxed about the flexibility in deadlines and procrastinate. As a result, spots might get filled up. Since every student doesn’t apply at the same time, it can be hard to predict exactly when the most competitive points are for different schools. You may send in your files at the last minute, but it could turn out the admissions office has filled every opening that was available for the incoming class. It’s not always possible to know the flow of files into the admissions office, so if you use a rolling-admissions school as a late backup option, you might be disappointed.
Also note that colleges with rolling admissions may have priority deadlines for housing, financial aid, and other essentials. These priority deadlines may require you to submit your application even earlier than the usual Regular Decision deadlines. For example, to be among the students given priority consideration for merit awards at Central Michigan University—which offers rolling admissions—you must submit your application by December 1.
As you gear up to make your school list, consider researching colleges with rolling admissions to see if any are right for you. If one of your top colleges offers rolling admissions, research their policies in detail so that you do everything you need to do to make the most of priority deadlines and scholarship opportunities. Depending on how you utilize the policy, rolling admissions can definitely offer an advantage.