What Are Rolling College Admissions?
Many people imagine the college application model as follows: you review the deadlines for Early Action or Regular Decision on the college’s website. You submit your application and essays before one of those dates. And then you wait patiently after the deadline passes to hear back from the college. It’s a simple process.
But not all colleges have fixed deadlines for sending in applications. Instead, these other colleges offer what’s called “rolling admissions.” For rolling admissions, students can submit their applications at any point during a designated window of time, and once the college receives the application, admissions officers review it and send out the decision.
Simply put, rolling admissions is another way that colleges process applications. Instead of bottling them all up at a deadline and releasing the results at once, these colleges like to spread out the review process and also fill up their freshman classes on an ongoing basis.
While Ivy League colleges and top-tier schools do not offer rolling admissions, there is a misconception that only “easy” schools do so. Consequently, students think that they can throw together applications quickly and expect to get acceptance letters. The truth is that higher-tier and lower-tier colleges both use rolling admissions, so remember these two things:
Do NOT wait to send your application.
Do NOT assume you will be accepted.
What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Rolling Admissions?
Typically, there are more advantages than disadvantages to submitting an application to a rolling admissions college. Still, it’s worth reviewing the pros and cons:
nonbinding, can still wait to make a choice (unlike Early Decision, which is binding)
know that you are accepted early
apply early or late in the admissions season, as long as seats are open
get accepted to a “safety” school early to take stress off other applications
applying early usually is better than applying later, but you shouldn’t rush apps
may commit to a school earlier without weighing all the options
may still have to follow deadlines (some schools give you early/priority deadlines and/or regular deadlines)
Which Notable Colleges in United States Offer Rolling Admissions?
Let’s look at a few notable colleges that offer rolling admissions and address the unique cases and how to properly apply to these schools (and others like them).
Indiana U offers rolling admission, but notice how the rolling admission period also has Early Action and Regular Decision deadlines. In this case, it is recommended that you apply Early Action or Regular Decision. (Early Action is typically the best option.) What makes IU rolling admission is that the college will send you an admission decision after receiving your application and by the notification deadline specified for whichever period you applied.
Michigan State offers rolling admission with Early Action and Regular Decision deadlines. The recommendation is to apply to Early Action or Regular Decision.
Penn State has a rolling admission period similar to Michigan State's and Indiana University's. Follow the same recommendations.
University of Alabama has a priority deadline for its rolling admissions. This means that there is a recommended deadline to ensure that you get the best consideration. Notice, too, that students who are admitted by December 15 get access to the Alabama scholarship application. There is definitely an incentive to apply early.
University of Pittsburgh doesn’t specify much beyond stating that it has rolling admission and that earlier applications are more likely to get accepted. It is recommended that you apply as early as possible to get the best consideration.
Which Texas Colleges Offer Rolling Admissions?
Here is a list of ten popular Texas colleges that offer rolling admissions:
Note: Rolling admissions at these colleges vary. For example, some offer rolling admissions with early and regular deadlines. Others offer rolling admissions for the entire process without any specific deadlines.
The general takeaway is that there really is nothing to lose when applying to rolling admissions colleges. Still, it is important to remember that rolling admissions is not always the best route to getting accepted to a college. You don't want to rush your applications or make hasty decisions based on early acceptances.
Also, remember that colleges treat the term “rolling admissions” differently. In some cases, the whole admissions process is done on a rolling basis without any particular deadlines. In other cases, rolling admissions occurs with Early Action and Regular Decision deadlines. If you have the option to send in Early Action or Regular Decision, the best case would be Early Action, which is non-binding.
Regardless of what style of admission your target college offers, you should be applying as soon as you can to ensure you do get accepted. That doesn’t mean, as I was saying before, that you should send in a bad application or weak essays. You should put together a great application and then send it early!
Confused with all the deadline terms? Here is a handy reference:
Standard types of deadlines (colleges release notifications on specific dates):
Early Action: non-binding; students get notifications early (Dec/Jan).
Early Decision I: binding; students get notifications early (Dec/Jan).
Early Decision II: binding; students get notifications at regular time (March/April).
Regular Decision: non-binding; students get notifications at regular time (March/April).
Rolling types of deadlines (colleges send notifications as applications arrive):
Note: Colleges may not label their “modified rolling” process as such, but the dates and deadlines should clarify which type of rolling admissions they offer.
Priority: students get better consideration and more opportunities for scholarships if they apply before a specified date.
Modified Rolling: occurs with Early and Regular Decision deadlines.
Rolling: there are no priority deadlines or recommended dates.
Thinking of applying to a college that offers rolling admissions? Not sure if your target college does? Trying to decide between Early Action, Regular Decision, and rolling admission? No worries! Sign up for a FREE 1-1 consultation with one of our directors and they can help you determine the best steps forward with rolling admissions. If you think you need more in-depth help with your college application or essays, then check out our college admissions services.