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What is Rolling Admission? How to Find Colleges With Rolling Admissions

a dad and daughter celebrate her college admission news

As you prepare for your college applications, you may feel overwhelmed by the many new terms you need to learn and the countless admissions decisions you need to make. That's normal. You're not alone if you feel that way.

We talk to students in your position all the time, and when we do, we consistently get asked about rolling admissions. In this article, we explain rolling admissions and share tips for deciding whether or not to apply this way. 

What is rolling admission?

With rolling admission, you can submit your application on a rolling basis, anytime within the school's application window. The college then reviews applications in the order they come in. This is opposed to colleges with a single application deadline, which most students are more familiar with.

Colleges and universities with rolling admissions take applications until they fill their freshman class. Once that happens, they conclude their rolling admissions cycle.

We talked to Stephen Lazowski, Vice President for enrollment at Thiel College, to get the inside scoop on rolling admissions. Thiel College is one of the many rolling admissions schools.

Stephen told us that rolling admissions benefit students who don't want to be pressed against a hard deadline. They are also helpful for a student who didn't land a spot at their top-choice college or didn't receive enough financial aid at a college where they were accepted.

Overall, rolling admissions offer more flexibility and can make admission decisions earlier, which benefits students eager to secure their college placement.

When do you apply for rolling admission? 

Each school will have its own rolling admission timeline. However, the best time to apply to a rolling admissions school is in the fall or winter because more institutional funding will be available for student financial aid. But, Stephen told us that students who apply before February 15 typically are eligible for this funding.

However, it's also important to remember that each school still has a limited number of places available despite accepting applications on a rolling basis. So, they may actually fill up before the rolling admissions cycle ends.

How long does rolling admissions take?

Each school's timeline for reviewing applications and releasing decisions under rolling admissions varies. However, many schools with rolling admissions try to provide a decision within 4 to 8 weeks after receiving a completed application.

This timeframe usually depends on the volume of applications a colleges receives and the time of year you apply.

Is rolling admission better than regular admission?

Applying to a college that uses a rolling admission process isn't necessarily better than applying to a school during its regular admission window. It's just a different application and admissions process that may or may not fit your needs.

Who should apply to rolling admission colleges?

Stephen told us that students with grade point averages of 2.75 and higher are typically considered serious applicants when applying to colleges with rolling admissions. However, rolling admission schools can also be a good fit for transfer students.

When applying to rolling admissions colleges, it is essential to note your accomplishments.

"Most schools now are looking beyond test scores," Lazowski explained. He added that many colleges like Thiel are making testing optional, so admissions counselors now look at a wider range of attributes. "Everything you do in school counts, and everything you do outside of school counts, too."

Why do colleges offer rolling admissions?

Rolling admission helps reduce stress and ease the burden of the traditional admission process. Admission counselors can assess candidates as their applications arrive, which can be especially helpful for schools with fewer admissions officers on staff.

What are priority deadlines for rolling admission?

A priority deadline isn't a hard deadline. However, schools with priority deadlines will prioritize applicants who apply within the designated time frame. This helps them build their freshman class with some certainty while still allowing the flexibility of rolling admissions.

Early action vs. rolling admissions

Here are the key differences between regular admission application deadlines and rolling admission application deadlines:

Regular Admission 

  • Fixed Deadlines: Regular admission deadlines are fixed. Colleges with this system require all applicants to submit their applications by a specific date.
  • Simultaneous Application Review: Once the deadline passes, the college admissions committee reviews all applications collectively, rather than on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • One Notification Day: Applicants typically find out their admission status (accepted, waitlisted, or rejected) around the same time, usually a few months after the application deadline.

Rolling Admission 

  • Flexible Deadlines: Rolling admissions don't have a fixed application deadline. Instead, colleges accept applications within a broad window (often from early fall to late spring) until all spots are filled.
  • First-Come, First-Served Application Review: Applications are reviewed as they are received. This means the sooner you apply, the better your chances might be, as admissions officers make decisions continuously throughout the application period.
  • Varied Notification: Applicants can receive a decision soon after applying, rather than waiting for a set date. This can be advantageous for planning, especially if the college is one of your top choices.

Tips for applying to colleges with rolling admissions

Let's discuss some best practices for applying via rolling admission. Remember that these tips are helpful whether you submit your application for regular admission, early action, or early decision.

Read the instructions carefully

Completing your application will require several pieces of information, like transcripts and your high school resume. Some schools use an application portal, whereas others use the Common Application. It's essential that you read and understand what each school is asking for so you don't miss anything. Then, stay organized and on track as you collect the required pieces.

Stagger your applications

You can use the rolling admission process to your advantage by completing your early action or early decision applications and then applying to colleges with rolling admission. Spreading out your applications like this gives you more time to apply to colleges with less stress.

Secure your recommendation letters

Letters of recommendation give admissions committees a more in-depth view of your personality, academic achievement, work habits, and overall attitude. That's why they are so critical to your application package.

To get the best possible letters from your recommenders, ensure they have plenty of time to write them for you.

Work on achieving your best SAT or ACT score

Many colleges are test-optional now. However, there are still some colleges that require test scores. So, your best bet is to take the SAT or ACT early so you can retake it as often as needed. That way, you'll be sure to have a score you're proud of.

Write a strong essay

Beyond test scores or GPA, your college admissions essay is one of the best ways to make an impression on the admissions team. So, take your time and work through several rounds of revisions when writing it and your personal statement.

Apply early

While schools admit students by rolling admission, they fill seats gradually until they reach their enrollment goals. Sure, you can apply anytime during the rolling enrollment period. But it is best to submit your rolling admissions application earlier rather than later to secure a spot and financial aid. Plus, you'll get your decision earlier, too.

Keep your GPA high

Even if you submit your application in the fall of your senior year, your spring semester grades still matter. Sure, GPAs aren't everything. But they are factored heavily into admissions decisions.

Don't forget to demonstrate interest

Our expert, Lazowski, explained that if you apply to a college with rolling admissions, visiting the campus is a good idea. It shows admissions counselors that you're serious about attending the school and sets you apart from other applicants.

Visiting the campus is just one way of demonstrating interest, which we've discussed before.

"The more interest you show in the school, the more likely you are to get in," Lazowski said. "Schools are going to take chances on students who come to visit."

How to Search for Colleges with Rolling Admissions

Now that you know all about rolling admission, it's time to use Appily to search for schools that offer this type of application opportunity. Simply create a free Appily account to search for colleges and see their admission deadlines. From there, you can save interesting schools and manage your college list. 

No matter where you are in your journey, we're here to help make your college search and selection process as successful as possible. Just click the button below to get started. It's always free and easy. 

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