What is Rolling Admission for College? Key Info + Pros & Cons

Rolling admission for college
April 26, 2024
13 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

What does rolling admission mean? This guide will tell you everything you need to know about rolling admissions. 

When people think about the college admissions process, they often think of the concrete early decision or early action and regular decision deadlines. But what if college admissions deadlines were a little less hard and fast? That’s where rolling admissions come in. 

We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about rolling admissions, including what they are and their purpose, schools that use this process, its benefits, and tips for applying. .

What Does Rolling Admission Mean? 

Rolling admission means that colleges will review applications as they come in rather than reviewing all applications after a certain deadline. This process offers applicants a broader timeframe to submit their applications. These schools often open admissions to students sometime in September until sometime in the spring. 

However, some schools with this policy set priority deadlines, meaning they prefer to have all information submitted by a specific date. Priority deadlines can differ from school to school, with common dates from November through February. Priority deadlines are just as they sound: students who submit before the deadline will be given priority in the admissions process and typically hear back sooner about their application.

What is the Purpose Behind a Rolling Admission Policy? 

Using this policy means a school gets to fill up its class bit by bit. College applications are reviewed as they’re received, meaning you could expect to receive an admissions decision between four and six weeks later. 

These colleges will continue to offer acceptances until all seats are claimed, ensuring the class is full. All colleges aim to admit as many students as they have the resources to cover operating costs, salaries, and more.

What Schools Have Rolling Admissions?

Although you may be used to rigid deadlines, many schools have this policy. U.S. News World and Report recently ranked the top 10 national universities that offer rolling admissions: 

School Name U.S. News National Universities Rank Priority Application Date
Rutgers University, New Brunswick 40 December 1
Purdue University, West Lafayette 43 February 1
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities 53 November 1
Pennsylvania State University 6 November 30
Binghamton University, SUNY 73 (tied) January 15
Indiana University, Bloomington 73 (tied) February 1
University of Buffalo, SUNY 76 November 15
Rutgers University, Newark 82 December 1
Rochester Institute of Technology 98 (tied) January 15
Rutgers University, Camden 98 (tied) December 1

Schools that offer rolling admissions do not generally overlap with the nation’s most competitive institutions.

Other schools with this policy include:

School Name Priority Deadline
University of Alabama January 15
Bethune-Cookman University May 1
University of Central Florida January 15
Charleston Southern University N/A
Delaware State University February 1
Florida Atlantic University November 1
Florida Institute of Technology August 1
University of Hartford May 1
Immaculata University January 30
Johnson and Wales University January 15
Middle Tennessee State University February 15
Texas Wesleyan University April 1
Valparaiso University November 1
Washington State University January 31
Wilkes University January 15

The Differences from Other Admission Policies

Not all colleges or universities use this policy. Let’s take a look at some of the differences in some alternate policies. 

Rolling Admission vs Regular Decision

Schools that use a Regular Decision policy require all applications to be submitted by a hard deadline, after which no further applications are accepted. These applications are normally due sometime in January or February, and decisions are typically released several weeks after the deadline. 

In contrast, a rolling admissions policy means that there is no hard deadline that you need to apply by. Instead, it operates on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Early Action vs Rolling Admission

Early Action is when you apply to a school before regular admission. Schools that offer Early Action usually have deadlines sometime in the fall. This ensures that you get a decision from the school sooner than other applicants.

With a rolling admission policy, there is no deadline, but you may choose to submit your application earlier than average in order to ensure an earlier response from the school of your choice. 

Benefits of Rolling Admissions 

The rolling admissions process can be especially beneficial for a busy high school senior. We’ll explore all the pros below. 

You May Have a Better Shot of Acceptance 

Rolling admissions stay open as long as there are seats to fill. Of course, you’ll still need an excellent application to captivate the admissions committee and explain why you’re the perfect candidate. 

If you craft a perfect application and apply early in the admission cycle (especially if you submit your materials before the school’s priority deadline), you may have a better shot at acceptance. In this instance, more seats equals a better chance. 

You Can Potentially Spend Less Time Stressing

One of the main benefits here is that you can expect an admissions response earlier than you would from a school with hard deadlines. Generally, it takes about four to six weeks to hear back about your application, meaning you can send them off in the fall and sometimes receive your admissions decision well before the new year. 

When you submit an application to schools with hard deadlines, you may have to wait months for a decision. While some people are okay with that, rolling admissions means less anticipation and anxiety due to shorter admissions decision wait times. 

Early Rolling Decision Applications are Non-Binding 

Unlike early decision or single-choice early action programs, you are not bound to a school with rolling admissions if you apply early. If you get accepted, you’re under no obligation to enroll. Many students breathe a sigh of relief knowing that a school has accepted them as they wait for other schools to get back to them with admissions decisions. 

You Can Stagger Your Applications 

If you’re applying to many schools with rolling admissions, you don’t necessarily have to send in your applications all at once. Some students may prioritize their applications by applying to their first-choice schools through an early action or early decision program and then rolling admissions applications afterward. 

Spreading the application process means less work for a prolonged time, but this method could work better for seniors juggling multiple responsibilities. 

You Can Apply Later 

While it may not be the best method to ensure you’re accepted, you can apply at any time in the application window. Students may apply later for numerous reasons: they have busy lives, they’re staggering their applications for less work at once, or they had other situations pop up in their senior year they weren’t prepared for or that were beyond their control. 

Potential Drawbacks of Rolling Admissions

Despite the benefits, this policy is not always the best option for all high school graduates. Let’s examine some potential drawbacks. 

Prioritizing Efficiency over Quality

Qualifications are not a guarantee of admission. Since rolling admissions operate on a first-come, first-serve basis, students who are qualified may be rejected from their university of choice simply because they didn’t apply soon enough. 

Premature Commitments

The quick turnover time of this admission policy, although it is non-binding, could still lead students to commit prematurely to a school before they’ve had a chance to truly consider all their options. 

Increased Stress Levels

Since it’s better to submit applications earlier rather than later, students may feel added pressure to complete all the application materials as fast as they can. This may add unneeded stress to an already stressful process.

Tips for Applying to Colleges with Rolling Admissions

The college application process can be lengthy, but that doesn’t mean you have to agonize over it. We’ll walk you through some of the best ways to ensure your rolling admissions applications are a hit with admissions committees. 

Don’t Wait Too Long To Apply 

This admission policy allows schools to accept students and fill seats little by little until they have a whole class. Although this gives you the luxury of applying at any time in the application window, it's in your best interest to fire off your applications as soon as possible. Sending in your application earlier in the window generally means more seats are available; therefore, there is a statistically better chance you’ll be accepted. 

Handle Your Application With Care 

Although schools with rolling admissions generally aren’t the nation’s most competitive schools, it doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed acceptance. Many people may believe they can drift through their application materials and not spend as much time honing, editing, and perfecting as they would for an early or regular decision application. 

This is not true. You should strive to always put your best foot forward in any application, whether you’re applying to an Ivy League school or a school that offers rolling admissions. 

Plan Ahead to Achieve Excellent SAT or ACT Scores 

Many schools have recently adopted a test-optional policy for a predetermined set of admissions cycles, but many colleges still want to see your SAT or ACT scores. Your standardized test scores show admissions committees your academic aptitude and college readiness. Many colleges use your scores as a barometer of how well you’ll perform and thrive through the rigorous education college has to offer. 

Give yourself enough time to prepare for either test. The SAT and ACT are fairly challenging, lengthy exams that require speed and accuracy. How long you spend studying depends on what score you aim for and your foundational knowledge. 

Take the test well in advance so you have time to retake it if necessary. Many high school students take the SAT or ACT in the spring of their junior year or the fall of their senior year. Whenever you decide you’re ready to take the test, make sure you’re doing everything you can to set yourself up for success. 

Secure Your Letters Of Recommendation 

Recommendation letters are a crucial piece of any college application. These letters help the admissions committee gain an outside perspective on your personality, academic excellence, how you work, and your general attitude. 

Even if you’re applying to a school with rolling admissions and have more time to submit applications, ask your teachers, counselors, coaches, or anyone else you choose for recommendation letters well before deadlines. You want to ensure your recommenders have enough time to provide a detailed account of who you are and show the admissions committees why you’d be a valuable asset to their school. 

Keep Your GPA Sailing High 

Even if you’ve submitted all your applications by the new year, your senior year is not the time to let your grades slip. Although GPA isn’t everything to college, it helps admissions committees assess your academic aptitude. Strive to keep your GPA as high as you can to show you’re ready for college-level courses. 

Although you will undoubtedly be very busy in your senior year, it’s essential to perform well the entire year. When you enroll at a college, they’ll often ask for a final report detailing your grades for all coursework. You want to ensure that what the college sees reaffirms you were the right choice! 

Read All Application Directions Carefully 

College application directions: read them once, and reread them (or as many times as needed). You want to ensure you have all the pieces required for the admissions committee to make an admissions decision. 

While many colleges use the Common Application or the Coalition Application, some schools use their own application portal. You should be especially mindful when using different portals for submitting applications to different schools – you want to make sure you don’t miss anything. 

Some school websites might provide a checklist for you, but you should create your own where you can tick off the boxes as you gather application materials. Creating a specific list for every college you apply to will help you stay organized and less stressed. 

Don’t Neglect Your Essays 

You’ll want to ensure your application stands out at any stage. Beyond test scores and GPA, you should take extra care to weave compelling essays. These essays create a window into your life and experiences and shed light on your background, character, personality, and how you deal with difficult situations. 

Beyond showing off your excellent writing skills, the admissions committee gets to evaluate your candidacy qualitatively. Schools often have their set of core values they hope all staff and students abide by on campus. If you can carefully interject these qualities into your essay, you can reinforce you’re the right fit for the school. 

Give Yourself a Better Chance With Priority Deadlines 

It’s not mandatory to submit all your materials by priority deadlines (or else it wouldn’t really be rolling admissions). Still, if you have the time to submit everything before the deadline, you’ll have a better chance of acceptance. 

While you can undoubtedly apply after a priority deadline, it’s called “priority” for a reason: there will likely be fewer seats to fill if you decide to apply after.

Rolling Admissions FAQs

Still have questions about this admission policy? We’ve got you covered. 

1. Do Ivy League Schools or Other Top-Ranked Schools Offer Rolling Admissions? 

No, none of the Ivy League schools have rolling admissions. As for other top schools, Purdue University is the only university with this policy that cracks U.S. News World and Report’s top 50 Best National Universities.

2. Besides Priority Deadlines, What Other Types of Deadlines Are There? 

If you’re not concerned about applying by a priority deadline, there are still other deadlines to consider. Ensure you check each school’s website for more information omg deadlines for financial aid, housing, and scholarships. When planning out your college application timeline, ensure you consider these other factors. 

3. What’s the Latest I Can Submit a Rolling Admissions Application? 

The final deadline to submit your application and materials varies by school, but you can generally expect schools to not accept any more sometime in the spring to summer. Some colleges don’t have a cut-off date and will continue to accept applications until the class is full. 

4. If a School Has Rolling Admissions, Are They Less Competitive? 

The answer depends on the school, but programs with rolling admissions are generally much less competitive than Ivy League schools or the top 25 national universities. 

However, that doesn't mean you can submit an application with minimal effort and be guaranteed acceptance. You should still work hard to polish your application: some rolling admissions schools may be considered “reach” schools for you, depending on your profile. 

5. What Do Acceptance Rates Look Like at Schools With Rolling Admissions? 

Acceptance rates depend on the school and program. For example, recent data showed that Penn State’s acceptance rate is 55%, while the University of Kansas' acceptance rate is 88%. 

Final Thoughts

Many excellent schools have rolling admissions. Applying to these schools can be a great way to enjoy less stress and receive your admissions decision sooner. 

If you want to apply to schools with this policy, it’s always in your best interest to apply as early as possible to give yourself the best chance of acceptance. As seats fill up, you generally have a lesser chance of acceptance. 

To ensure your application stands out, treat it with the diligence and care you would with any other college app. Secure your letters of recommendation ASAP and plan to take your SAT or ACT before you start applying. If you submit a well-crafted application before a priority deadline, you can maximize your chance of acceptance to any school with rolling admissions. 

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