What Does Rolling Admission Mean and How Does It Work?

  • Rolling admissions refers to college application cycles that are open year-round.
  • They can be valuable for students who change their mind about college or want to apply to additional schools after regular decision on January 1st.
  • Colleges that offer rolling admissions do tend to have priority deadlines.
  • Popular colleges that have rolling admissions include Pennsylvania State University, University of Alabama, and Michigan State University.

Rolling admissions work slightly differently than regular admissions. While regular admissions have a hard deadline, colleges that have rolling admissions accept applications year-round. Here’s what rolling admission means for you, how to apply to them, and other things you need to know about this application process.

What Does “Rolling Admission” Mean?

Most colleges use application processes like “regular applications,” “early decision,” and “early action.” All of these have hard deadlines for applications like November 15th or January 1st. They will not accept applications after these dates except in extenuating circumstances.

Rolling admission colleges, on the other hand, accept applications year-round. That isn’t to say there aren’t deadlines, but you won’t miss out on submitting your application to this school if you failed to remember a date.

What Are the Deadlines for Rolling Admission?

Rolling Admissions schools accept applications 365 days a year, however, they only have room for so many students. As such, they fill available spots for students on a first-come, first-served basis. Admissions officers work to read over applications and send out decision letters throughout the entire year, only stopping if they’ve hit that year’s deadline or they’ve filled up the spots available.

There are a few important deadlines students need to be aware of, however.

1. Priority Deadlines

Many rolling admission colleges do have priority application deadlines. This increases your chances of getting accepted as you will receive priority over all other students who apply after this deadline. You need to check with the college’s website to find what that date is.

2. END-OF-YEAR Deadlines

If you want to attend college in Fall 2024, you’re going to have to apply in time to attend. Rolling admission schools have cut-off dates for incoming students. If you apply past this date, you may not be able to attend the school until the spring semester or even 2025.

3. FAFSA Availability and Deadlines

Students also need to be aware of Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) availability dates and deadlines. If you are hoping to qualify for institutional grants and colleges, rolling admission colleges usually need your FAFSA and applications by a certain date.

Pros and Cons of Rolling Admissions

There are several pros and cons of rolling admissions.

Pros of Rolling Admissions:

  • They can offer last-minute options if you receive rejection letters from your other schools.
  • Applying early with a strong application can increase your chances of acceptance.
  • You have more time to complete your applications and can spread them out throughout the year instead of having them ready to go between November and January.
  • Your senior year can be less stressful with fewer hard deadlines.
  • The application process can be more flexible and you may be able to decide on your college after the universal May 1st deadline.
  • Students can receive acceptance letters within 4 to 6 weeks which is faster than many regular decision application cycles.

Cons of Rolling Admissions:

  • Even with loose deadlines, spots may fill up quickly and availability can vary from year to year.
  • Priority deadlines may not work for every student.
  • Housing availability may be limited or unavailable if you apply too late in the rolling admissions cycle.
  • Financial aid may be limited or unavailable if you apply late, though some FAFSA loans will always be available no matter when you apply.

Tips for Applying Under Rolling Admissions

1. Apply as Early as Possible

Since spots fill up, the sooner you apply, the greater chance you have of being accepted. Submitting before the priority deadline could make the difference between an acceptance letter or a rejection letter.

If you are accepted to a college under rolling admissions, you should also give the school notification of your intention of attending. Since spots fill up year-round, waiting too long could result in you missing out on a seat at the school or a seat in a particular class. Even if you have until a week before the semester starts to make your decision, if you know the answer sooner than that, let the college know as soon as possible.

2. Craft a Strong Application

Rolling admissions does allow you to have more time to craft your application. If you’re stuck between the priority deadline and a weak application, it may be beneficial to submit after the date.

This will allow you to gather stronger letters of recommendation, retake the SAT or ACT, or improve your grades. However, you still don’t want to wait until the last minute or you could end up fighting for the remaining few spots available.

You should be taking your rolling admissions applications as seriously as your other applications.

3. Complete your FAFSA as Soon as Possible

Even if your rolling admissions application isn’t due until May, you don’t want to wait until May to complete your FAFSA. Federal financial aid can and will run out, and the sooner you apply for it, the more likely you are to be approved. Your FAFSA should be completed as soon as it becomes available on the Department of Education website (usually October 1st).

What Colleges Have Rolling Admissions Policies?

Quite a few colleges have rolling admission policies! Here are just a few you may want to look into:

  1. Iowa State University
    • All admissions at this university are rolling, with applications becoming available in July of the preceding year.
  2. Kansas State University
    • December 1st is the priority deadline for incoming fall freshmen.
  3. Indiana University Bloomington
    • February 1st is the priority deadline, and applications received afterward will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis if there is space available.
  4. Duquesne University
    • The priority deadline is January 15th and is based on available space.
  5. Michigan State University
    • February 1st is the priority deadline, but deposits and decisions, if accepted, are still due on May 1st.
  6. Pennsylvania State University
    • Rolling admissions applications become available on August 1st, with a priority deadline of December 1st. Students must notify the school of their decision on May 1st if accepted.
  7. St. John’s University
    • The regular decision application process is rolling as well and the priority deadline is February 1st.
  8. University of Alabama
    • January 15th is the priority deadline and necessary if you want to compete for some of the more competitive scholarships.
  9. University of Florida
    • The priority deadline is November 1st. Any applications received after will be reviewed on a space-available basis, but the rolling admissions deadline for the upcoming year is March 1st.
  10. University of Maine
    • March 1st is the suggested application deadline, but applications will be received after.

Rolling Admissions FAQ

Here are just a few other things you should know about the rolling admissions process at colleges:

When Should Students Expect To Hear Back from Rolling Admissions Applications?

Admissions decisions can vary quite a bit from school to school and program to program, but most students hear back within four to six weeks if they submit their application under rolling admissions.

Are Rolling Admissions Binding?

No, rolling admissions are not binding and you are not obligated to attend if you are accepted to the school.

When Do You Have to Declare Your Intention to Attend?

Most colleges have a May 1st deadline for attendance decisions, meaning students have to decide by this date whether or not to attend a particular school. Many rolling admissions schools adhere to this date. Other schools may allow you to make a decision up until the day classes start, a week or two into the semester, or before spots in the school fill up.

If you are not sure when you have to notify your intended college, be sure to reach out to the admissions department as soon as possible. Even if you have until the beginning of the semester, it is better to notify the school as soon as possible of your intention as spots can fill up.

Does My College Offer Rolling Admissions?

Not all colleges and universities offer rolling admissions. If you are not sure about your intended college, reach out to the admissions department to see what they offer interested students.

Rolling admissions can give you more time to complete your college applications, especially if you’re coming up on deadlines. They can also be a life-saver if you weren’t accepted into any of your first-choice schools. However, it’s important that you take these applications as seriously as you take regular decision ones! They can still be highly competitive, especially as time goes on.

Want to learn more about the colleges that offer open admissions and what these schools are looking for in their applicants? Use College Raptor’s free College Match to get started!

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