What Is Rolling Admission: The Ultimate Guide

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While researching schools to apply for, you might come across some unfamiliar terms: early action versus early decision, binding versus non-binding, and, maybe, rolling admission. Choosing a school is daunting enough without all these new concepts! This article is going to focus on rolling admissions: the what, why, when, and any other questions you might have!

What is rolling admission?

Schools that use rolling admission provide a window of time that they encourage students to submit applications and don’t usually provide a hard deadline. The admission window can stay open through the spring! 

Schools that use rolling admission consider applications as they are submitted. They can and will accept students while the admission window is still open and students are still applying. Often, these admission windows stay open until all the spots in the incoming class are filled!

How does this differ from normal admission?

Colleges that don’t use rolling admission usually have hard deadlines that prospective students must submit their applications by. Those schools won’t begin looking at applications until that deadline has passed and all applications are submitted. 

What are the benefits of rolling admission?

Rolling admission has many benefits. The biggest is flexibility: if you realize come springtime that you wish you had more options, schools with rolling admissions are the most likely to still be accepting new applications. 

On the flip side, if you want options as early as possible, rolling admissions schools are the most likely to give you a quick response, since they do not wait for the application window to close before considering applications and sending decisions. You will often hear back within a few weeks.

Another major benefit is the competition. Because these schools are accepting students while other applications are still coming in, you are more likely to be judged on more objective criteria: GPA, test scores, and essays, as opposed to a direct competition against other students. This advantage only holds true if you submit an application early! (We will discuss the importance of submitting early more in a couple of sections.)

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What are the drawbacks to rolling admission?

However, there are definitely some drawbacks to applying to a rolling admission school, especially if you want to take advantage of the last-minute flexibility they offer. The later you apply, the later you will hear back. Additionally, the later you apply, the fewer spots will be available, since these schools accept applications as they receive them.

Another drawback can be the lack of a hard deadline. Applying for college requires a ton of organization and time management, and it’s easy to be fooled into procrastination when there isn’t a hard deadline. Just because a school doesn’t have a date that you must submit an application by doesn’t mean that you should put off your application! Read on to find out why.

When should I apply for rolling admission?

Due to the above drawbacks, it is definitely recommended to apply as early as you can for rolling admissions schools: just because you can apply months after your regular decision schools doesn’t mean you should. In fact, we recommend that you prioritize your rolling admission applications!

Some schools that offer rolling admissions have a priority deadline. If that’s the case, those admission boards will prioritize applications that come before the deadline, but will still consider applications submitted after. You definitely should plan on submitting before any priority deadlines if applicable!

It’s important to have a plan and stick to it while applying to colleges. Give yourself a hard deadline to submit your rolling applications by. The sooner you submit it, the better. If you need help creating and sticking to a college application plan, our blog posts, mentors, and boot camps can help!

Should I work on rolling admission applications before regular applications?

Yes! If you have a list of schools, and some are rolling and some are regular, it may be tempting to submit your applications to schools with a hard deadline first, to give you more time, before working on the schools with rolling admissions.

However, it is actually much more beneficial to submit your rolling admission applications first. This is because there can actually be significantly less competition for spots to rolling admission schools the earlier you apply. Because these schools consider applications and send out decisions as they receive applications, if you are among the first to submit an application, you won’t be competing against other people who have not yet submitted applications yet!

In a regular application system, you will automatically be competing against every other student who applied for the same school. The earlier you submit a rolling application, the fewer students you will be competing against!

If you submit a rolling application late, there will be fewer spots available, since the school already has been reading applications and sending acceptances while you were still finalizing your application.

It might seem counterintuitive, but it is definitely in your best interest to apply to schools with rolling admissions as soon as you can and to prioritize those applications over schools with a normal admissions cycle!

How do I plan standardized tests and college essays for rolling admission?

As with most things when it comes to college applications, it’s all about the planning. Do some research and find out when your rolling admission schools begin accepting applications. Set a reasonable goal: how soon after that can you submit your application? This includes all elements: transcripts, test scores, essays, FAFSA, a resume, and more!

From that date, work backward. When it comes to standardized tests, you want to give yourself multiple opportunities for success. Ideally, you will have taken the ACT or SAT at least twice and received your scores before your self-assigned deadline so you can send in scores that you are confident represent your abilities!

College essays are a similar story. All the advantages to applying early for a rolling admission school can be undone by a rushed essay. A personal statement that was written the night before will read like it was written the night before, so make sure to give yourself plenty of time to brainstorm, draft, and proofread your essays before submitting.

As soon as schools and the Common App release their essay prompts, it’s a good idea to begin writing those essays. That way, you can be prepared to submit applications as soon as they open!

Which schools have rolling admission?

Many schools across the country have rolling admission! Currently, no Ivy Leagues use rolling admission, but lots of schools with great programs and reputations do offer rolling admission, including many “Public Ivies.” Here are a few schools with rolling admission.

  • Michigan State
  • Penn State 
  • Rutgers
  • University of Minnesota
  • Loyola Marymount
  • Arizona State
  • Cal State System

There are dozens of more schools that participate in rolling admission. As you research schools and application deadlines, be on the lookout for other schools that offer rolling admission!

Conclusion: What is rolling admission?

Rolling admission can seem confusing, but it’s a great opportunity to put yourself in a strong position for acceptance at a school. The most important part is not to be fooled by the lack of deadline: good planning and time management are crucial to make the most of a school with rolling admission!

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