When it comes to college applications, keeping track of the calendar is important. There are specific dates for almost everything. From standardized tests and financial aid applications to scholarship deadlines and the almighty application deadline, timelines might seem to rule your senior year of high school.
However, there’s good news for students who find all these hard and fast deadlines stressful. The rolling admissions process offers a more flexible application period without set deadlines. Even better, they are available at hundreds of colleges across the country.
If you will go through college admissions soon, make sure you understand rolling admissions. You might benefit from applying to the colleges that use this application process.
What Are Rolling Admissions?
All colleges have application timelines, but the model for these varies widely.
Many colleges have separate timelines for early decision, early action, and regular decision applications. In these models, each type of application has a specific deadline.
For example, early decision or early action applications are usually due sometime in November. Regular decision applications are usually due in January. These dates vary from one college to another, so it’s important to know the application deadlines for each school you apply to.
In the more traditional admissions process, colleges collect applications up until the application deadline. Applications received after the application deadline won’t be considered in the admissions process. After the deadline, admissions officers review all materials and offer acceptances to the most qualified candidates from the applicant pool.
In rolling admissions, there is an application window during which applications are accepted and reviewed. Just like in regular admissions, this window will vary from one school to another. In general, rolling admissions colleges will accept applications from fall until late spring or until the class is filled.
When you submit a rolling admissions application, it gets reviewed when it is received. You usually find out if you’ve been accepted soon after your application is reviewed. Rolling admissions are kind of like a first-come, first-serve application process.
What Are the Advantages of Rolling Admissions?
Rolling admissions programs offer some key benefits to college applicants.
1. Rolling admissions are less stressful.
Deadlines can put additional pressure on you during an already stressful time. Rolling admissions help to relieve some of that pressure by allowing you to apply any time during the application window.
2. Rolling admissions have a more efficient turnaround on admissions decisions.
Most regular decision applications due in January don’t return an admissions decision until mid-March. In rolling admissions, most applicants find out if they’ve been accepted within 4-6 weeks of applying.
3. Rolling admissions offer the chance for a second round of applications.
If a student does not get accepted to any college under the regular decision process, they would still have time to apply to many schools through rolling admissions.
For students who don’t perform well under deadlines, want to hear back from colleges more quickly, or need a backup plan after regular admissions, rolling admissions can be a great opportunity.
What Are the Disadvantages of Rolling Admissions?
While there are many upsides to rolling admissions, applicants should also know about some of the drawbacks.
1. Rolling admission classes or programs can fill up before the application window closes.
Sometimes, you need to apply for a specific program at a school. More popular programs fill up quickly.
You can never be certain when a school or program will reach capacity. No matter how qualified you are, if you wait until later in the application window, you risk all the seats being filled.
2. The most selective, prestigious colleges don’t use rolling admissions.
This means if you want to attend an Ivy League or similarly competitive college, rolling admissions are off the table.
Some students have asked why this is. Traditional admissions deadlines ensure admissions officers can review every application. Then, they accept only the most highly qualified candidates.
In rolling admissions, admissions officers review applications as they arrive. They seek to only admit candidates who are qualified to attend, but they cannot compare the entire applicant pool at once. If the class fills, they may need to reject some highly qualified applicants.
What Else Should You Know About Rolling Admissions?
There’s one more factor you need to weigh when you’re considering rolling admissions: the priority deadline. Students who apply by the priority deadline will get a decision faster than those who don’t.
Priority deadlines are also sometimes used for students who want to apply for specific honors or accelerated programs, financial aid, or scholarships. As is always the case in college admissions, do your research for every school on your college list. You need to know when important dates are coming up.
Rolling Admissions Schools You Should Consider
Although the most selective colleges in the country do not use a rolling admissions process, plenty of other great schools do. Here are a few you should consider.
Pennsylvania State University is one of the most highly ranked schools that offers rolling admissions, but keep an eye on dates. The college recommends all applicants apply by Dec. 1, and some programs, like the accelerated premedical-medical program, have hard deadlines of Nov. 1.
Location: University Park, Pennsylvania
Acceptance rate: 56%
Application window: Aug. 1-Dec. 1
Priority deadline: Nov. 30
Cost: $18,454 for in-state students, $35,984 for out-of-state students
Michigan State University
Michigan State University is another strong contender that offers rolling admissions, though their website notes they typically receive applications from more candidates than they are able to accept. Getting your application in early is important if you want to boost your chances of getting in.
Location: East Lansing, Michigan
Acceptance rate: 78%
Application window: Aug. 1 to until the class is filled
Priority deadline: Nov. 1
Cost: $14,524 for in-state students, $39,830 for out-of-state students
Indiana University offers a hybrid rolling admission policy. Early action applications are accepted before Nov. 1, regular decision applications are accepted until Feb. 1, and rolling admissions applications are accepted afterward until space is filled. Keep in mind the longer you wait, the more competitive the admissions process becomes.
Location: Bloomington, Indiana
Acceptance rate: 77%
Application window: Aug. 1-Feb. 1 and as space allows afterward
Priority deadline: Nov. 1
Cost: $11,220 for in-state students, $37,600 for out-of-state students
University of Tulsa
At the University of Tulsa, admissions officers recommend that students submit an application by Feb. 1, though they will consider later applications on a space-available basis. All applications submitted by Feb. 1 will also be considered for scholarships.
Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Acceptance rate: 41%
Application window: Nov. 1-Feb. 1 and later as space allows.
Start Your College Search on the Right Foot
This list of some of the top rolling admissions schools should get you off to a great start. If you want to find out if other schools on your college list practice rolling admissions, click through the application process for information about deadlines.
Finally, keep in mind that while rolling admissions offer a great opportunity for students who need to delay the application for one reason or another, it does limit your options.
You’re better off starting your college search on the early side and compiling a strong college list. For help, check out College Rank, where a team of professional researchers uses data and science to rank colleges across the country.
Start with our article about How to Find the Perfect College, then browse our other rankings. Here, you’ll find everything from the 25 Best Online Colleges and 10 Best Tuition-Free Colleges to 30 Most Beautiful College Arboretums and 50 Best College Dining Experiences.