Rolling Admissions Guide: What, When, Why? 

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Beginning the College Search Process to Build a Balanced College List

College applicants often find themselves immersed in a sea of application deadlines, admission requirements, and decision anxieties. Among the various admissions policies, rolling admissions stands out as a flexible and dynamic approach. Understanding how rolling admission deadlines work can help you unlock a smoother and more personalized application process.

What Is Rolling Admission? 

The rolling admissions process is an approach used by some colleges and universities for admitting students. Unlike traditional admissions with a fixed application deadline and a specific notification date, rolling admissions operate on an ongoing basis. Under rolling admissions, the institution accepts and evaluates applications as they are received, and admissions decisions are made continuously throughout the admissions cycle. 

So, why do some colleges use a rolling admission process instead of a fixed deadline? There are several reasons: 

  • It’s a more efficient use of resources within the admissions office, as they are not inundated with a large volume of applications all at once. 
  • Rolling admissions can attract a diverse pool of applicants, including those who might be considering multiple institutions or who are exploring educational opportunities later in the admissions cycle. 
  • Colleges can adapt to fluctuations in demand and adjust their admissions processes accordingly. This flexibility allows them to fill available spots in the incoming class as efficiently as possible. 
  • Colleges can showcase their programs and attract applicants at any time, maintaining a dynamic and engaging admissions environment. 

What Are the Distinctions Between Early Action, Early Decision, and Rolling Admissions? 

Early Action, Early Decision, and rolling admissions each have unique features, benefits, and considerations. Here are the key distinctions: 

Early Action (EA)  

  • Deadline: Early Action has an application deadline in the fall, often around November 1 or 15. 
  • Non-Binding: Early Action is non-binding, meaning that if a student is accepted, they are not obligated to enroll and can still consider other institutions. 
  • Notification: Admissions decisions are usually communicated to Early Action applicants in December. 
  • Flexibility: Students can apply to multiple colleges under Early Action and compare offers before making a final decision. 

Early Decision (ED) 

  • Deadline: Early Decision also has an early application deadline, often in November. 
  • Binding Commitment: Unlike Early Action, Early Decision is binding. If a student is accepted, they must enroll in that institution and withdraw applications from other colleges. 
  • Advantageous for Yield: Colleges often like Early Decision because it helps them predict and manage their yield (the percentage of admitted students who choose to enroll). 
  • Notification: Admissions decisions for Early Decision are usually communicated in December. 

Rolling Admissions 

  • Continuous Acceptance: The rolling admissions process allows colleges to accept and review applications on an ongoing basis, typically starting early in the admissions cycle and continuing until all spots are filled. 
  • Flexible Deadlines: There may be large application windows with a range of deadlines or no set deadline at all. Applications are reviewed as they are received. 
  • Quick Turnaround: Applicants often receive decisions from admissions officers relatively quickly after submitting a complete application. 
  • Non-Binding: Rolling admissions is generally non-binding, allowing admitted students to take their time in deciding whether to enroll. 

Understanding application options, early, rolling, and regular admissions, can help you make choices that best align with your needs and goals. It’s important to carefully consider the implications of each and to understand the specific policies of the institutions to which you are applying. Take a deeper dive into the different types of admissions policies with IvyWise counselors Katie and Krista on our Just Admit It! podcast

What Is the Optimal Time to Apply for Rolling Admission? 

Unlike other admissions decisions, rolling admissions do not have strict deadlines. This gives students extra time to work on their applications. However, many programs admit students on a first-come, first-served basis, so the earlier you apply, the better your chances of securing a spot — particularly if there are limited openings. Additionally, some schools that use the rolling admissions process designate priority dates for submitting your application. 

IvyWise counselor Katie recently told U.S. News, “Priority dates can give a student an advantage in consideration for certain programs, financial aid or scholarships, and housing.” Some programs, such as nursing, commonly have priority dates for rolling admission since they tend to fill up quickly. Students who apply as early as possible for rolling admissions may also receive better financial aid packages, scholarship opportunities, and housing options.  

If you are applying to multiple institutions with rolling admissions, you may have the flexibility to stagger your applications strategically. Prioritize your preferred programs and submit applications accordingly. That said, while there isn’t a universal “optimal” time to apply, submitting a well-prepared application as early as possible can only work to your advantage. 

How Does Rolling Admissions Work? 

Schools that use a rolling admissions process accept and review applications on an ongoing basis. They start accepting applications early in the admissions cycle and continue until they reach their target enrollment or a predetermined date. Admissions officers review applications as they are received. This often results in a faster turnaround for applicants, with decisions communicated soon after the application is complete. Some applicants may receive decisions within a few weeks of applying.

Students who apply for rolling admissions should expect to meet the same admissions criteria as they would for early and regular admissions. Applicants are evaluated based on academic achievements, test scores (if applicable), letters of recommendation, extracurriculars, and personal statements. In most cases, rolling admissions are non-binding. Students who are accepted are not obligated to enroll immediately, providing them with the flexibility to consider other offers. 

Top 20 Colleges with Rolling Admissions 

Numerous colleges and universities offer rolling admissions, including the 20 schools listed below. This list can be a good reference as you start to research schools, but keep in mind that your needs and goals should take priority over rank or popularity as you craft your list of colleges.  

  1. New York University: Students hoping to go to NYU can have their application evaluated on a space-available basis after the RD deadline on February 15. Learn how to get into NYU.   
  2. Rutgers University: Students can apply rolling admission on a space-available basis after EA and RD deadlines have passed. 
  3. Washington State University: Students applying for fall enrollment have a priority date of March 31. The spring application priority date is November 15.  
  4. Pennsylvania State University: Penn State offers a modified rolling admissions schedule with a priority date of December 1.  
  5. Indiana University: Applications are accepted after the RD deadline (February 1) on a space-available basis. 
  6. Rochester Institute of Technology: RIT reviews applications for spring semester and summer term on a rolling basis. Fall semester applicants must apply ED I, ED II, or RD.  
  7. Iowa State University of Science and Technology: Iowa State offers only rolling admissions, though students are encouraged to apply as early as possible for the term in which they would like to enroll.   
  8. Loyola University Chicago: The deadline for first-year applicants is December 1 for priority consideration for admission and scholarships.  
  9. Michigan State University: Students can apply rolling admission after the RD deadline of February 1.  
  10. University of Alabama: Students who submit their applications before January 15 are given priority consideration. After January 15, students are considered for admission on a space-available basis.  
  11. University of Cincinnati: The University of Cincinnati offers Early Action and rolling admissions. Students who want to be considered for merit-based scholarships and the Honors Program must apply EA.  
  12. University of Pittsburgh: Pitt operates on rolling admissions only, but students are advised to stay ahead of deadlines for the Honors College, scholarship, and certain programs.  
  13. University of Maryland: UMD will consider applications on a space-available basis if they are submitted past the RD deadline. 
  14. Kansas State University: Students can apply on a rolling basis, but priority consideration for scholarships and awards is given to applicants who submit before the priority deadline. 
  15. St. John’s University: Students applying to St. John’s can choose from among EA, RD, or rolling admission options.  
  16. University of Maine: Despite offering rolling admissions, UMaine strongly encourages students to apply no later than the RD deadline. 
  17. University of Mississippi: Ole Miss accepts applications on an ongoing basis as space allows. Students wishing to be considered for special programs and/or scholarships must submit by the deadline indicated by the Office of Admissions.  
  18. University of New Haven: Students have early admissions options as well as a rolling RD option. The priority deadline is March 1.  
  19. Michigan Technological University: Students are encouraged to submit their application by January 15, but Michigan Tech still considers applications after that date.  
  20. Creighton University: Students seeking priority consideration for scholarships must apply before the December 1 deadline. Admissions decisions are made on a rolling basis after December 1.  

Benefits of Rolling Admission 

In addition to providing a larger window of time, rolling admissions offers several benefits for prospective students. Here are some key advantages: 

You May Have a Better Shot at Getting In 

Rolling admissions decisions are made continuously, and spaces in the program are filled as applications are reviewed. This helps institutions manage their enrollment efficiently and ensures that students with strong applications have the opportunity to secure a spot. 

You Can Have a Less Stressful Senior Year 

Students who apply on a rolling basis often receive admissions decisions relatively quickly after submitting a complete application — often within a few weeks. This quick turnaround reduces the feelings of uncertainty and anxiety that come with waiting, which could lead to a less stressful and more enjoyable senior year. 

Earn Scholarships and Financial Aid Early 

Scholarships and financial aid programs often have limited funds available. Applying early through rolling admissions can give you access to a broader pool of financial assistance before funds are depleted.  

Keep in mind that deadlines for scholarships and special programs will vary by school, so regularly check college websites for any updates, set reminders so you don’t miss any important dates, and prioritize your applications based on the schools that best align with your preferences and goals — in other words, start with your top-choice schools. Staying organized and allowing yourself extra time to put together a strong application are crucial to being a competitive applicant.  

The Major Disadvantages of Rolling Admission 

While rolling admission can be beneficial in some ways, it also has its disadvantages.

Spots Can Fill Up Quickly 

They say the early bird gets the worm, and that is often true of rolling admissions. Applying late in the process may prevent you from securing a spot, especially in competitive programs with high demand.  

Rolling Admissions Schools May Set Priority Deadlines 

Priority deadlines exist for a reason — schools have limited availability in their class and a set amount of financial aid funds to award. Students who apply before the priority deadline are given primary consideration for space in the class and financial assistance, meaning that students who apply later may miss out.  

Plan Well Ahead for SAT/ACT Prep 

Depending on whether a school has priority deadlines, applicants may not have the luxury of extended preparation time for application materials. This means you may have to plan your test prep strategy well ahead of time and take the ACT or SAT early in order to submit a more competitive application.  

How to Increase Your Chances When Applying Rolling Admission 

The college admissions landscape is highly competitive no matter which admissions option you choose. IvyWise’s college counseling services help students through every stage of the college admissions process and increase their chances of acceptance into their top-choice program. Our counselors are former Deans and Directors of admissions at some of the top schools in the U.S. Schedule an Initial Consultation to learn how we can help you achieve your academic goals.  

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