What Is Rolling Admission and How Does It Work?

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Updated on May 11, 2022
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  • Rolling admission means colleges review applications on an ongoing basis.
  • Many schools with rolling admissions policies maintain priority deadlines.
  • One benefit of rolling admission is the ability to spread out your college applications.
  • Several popular colleges offer rolling admission, including Penn State.

Many colleges and universities use a rolling admissions policy, but what does rolling admission mean?

In the traditional college admissions process, you must submit all application materials by a set deadline — usually in late December or January — before your application will be reviewed by the school. In contrast, colleges with rolling admission allow you to submit your application within a wider time frame, usually six months or so, and review applications as they come in.

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Then, these schools typically send out admission decisions within 4-6 weeks, selecting students until all open slots for the incoming class have been filled. Schools with rolling admission often open their application cycles around September 1 and continue well into the spring term.

The Biggest Advantages of Rolling Admission

Prioritizing schools with rolling admissions policies can offer several benefits, including a higher chance of getting accepted and the ability to apply to college at a less stressful time in your high school career. Here are some of the biggest pros of rolling admission.

You May Have a Better Shot at Getting In

While you still need a strong application that meets the school's expectations, applying early during a rolling admissions cycle — when the most open slots are still available — can raise your chances of getting accepted.

You Can Stagger Your College Applications

Prospective students can use the sizable application window that comes with rolling admission to avoid applying to a large number of schools all at once. You can organize the application process by first completing any early action applications to schools at the top of your list and then applying to colleges with rolling admission.

By spreading out the college application process across multiple months, you'll have more time in the winter and spring to finish up any applications.

You Can Have a Less Stressful Senior Year

Schools with rolling admission look at applications as they come in, meaning you'll likely get an admission decision sooner than if you'd applied to a school without rolling admission. Applying in the fall to colleges with rolling admission allows you to find out whether you've been accepted far earlier in your senior year, saving you from needless anxiety and anticipation in the spring.

The Biggest Drawbacks of Rolling Admission

While rolling admission offers several advantages, students should also be aware of the following downsides of applying to colleges with this application policy.

Spots Can Fill Up Quickly

Since applications are reviewed as they're received, students who wait until late in the application cycle may face stiffer competition for the remaining spots. A qualified candidate who waits until the 11th hour to apply may be more likely to get denied, so it's recommended to not wait too long to submit your application.

Rolling Admissions Schools May Set Priority Deadlines

Some colleges with rolling admission, like Penn State, maintain priority deadlines and give greater consideration to students who submit their applications before a certain date. These priority deadlines are often close to traditional college application deadlines, meaning you won't gain any extra time to apply.

Other schools have housing and/or financial aid systems that operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Individuals accepted later in the rolling admissions cycle may have fewer options.

20 Popular Colleges With Rolling Admission

Rolling admissions systems can differ significantly depending on the school. The most notable difference lies between rolling notifications and rolling deadlines.

A rolling deadline means there is no set application deadline; in other words, you can apply to that school whenever you want. A rolling notification, however, means that a school will inform applicants of its admission decision after a set deadline. These colleges usually contact the strongest candidates first and continue to do so until all available slots have been filled.

Some schools use both rolling deadlines and rolling notifications, whereas others use hard deadlines and rolling notifications. Additionally, some institutions maintain a priority application deadline for admission and/or scholarships.

The following table lists 20 popular colleges with rolling admissions policies.

School Location Priority Deadline
Duque University Pittsburgh, PA January 15
Indiana University Bloomington Bloomington, IN February 1
Iowa State University Ames, IA
Kansas State University Manhattan, KS December 1
Loyola University Chicago Chicago, IL December 1
Marquette University Milwaukee, WI December 1
Michigan State University East Lansing, MI February 1
Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA December 1
Spelman College Atlanta, GA February 1
St. John's University Queens, NY February 1
University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL January 15
University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH
University of Florida Gainesville, FL November 1
University of Maine Orono, ME March 1
University of Maryland College Park, MD January 20
University of Mississippi Oxford, MS April 1
University of Oregon Eugene, OR January 15
University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA
University of Tulsa Tulsa, OK January 15
Washington State University Pullman, WA January 31

Frequently Asked Questions About Rolling Admission

What is rolling admission vs. regular decision?

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Rolling admission means colleges review applications as they're sent in; there is no hard deadline by which you need to submit your application. In contrast, schools with a regular decision policy require you to submit your application by a certain deadline -- usually in late December or January.

You also cannot submit any applications after this date, and your application will not be reviewed until after the deadline has passed.

What is rolling admission vs. early action?

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Some colleges offer early action, through which you can apply for admission -- and get an admission decision -- sooner than if you'd applied regular decision. Early action plans require you to submit your application earlier, usually in November. You'll also get a decision in the winter instead of in the spring.

Rolling admission does not require you to turn in your application by a specific deadline. Because you can choose when to apply, however, you may decide to send in your application materials earlier in the fall, giving you an earlier admission decision.

Does rolling admission make it easier to get into college?

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Applying to a college with a rolling admissions policy does not guarantee you'll get accepted. That said, by applying earlier in the application cycle, you may have a better shot at getting in due to the larger number of open spots available at that time. Depending on the school, you may also qualify for certain scholarships if you apply by a certain date or priority deadline.

Reviewed by:

Portrait of Lonnie Woods III

Lonnie Woods III

Lonnie Woods III is a student affairs administrator, professor, and professional development practitioner whose research examines the career competencies of college students studying arts-related majors. Woods holds a BS in fine art photography from Towson University and an MA in higher education and student affairs from New York University. He has 10-plus years of experience working in higher education, with professional experience spanning various institutions, including Pratt Institute, New York University, The George Washington University, and Columbia University.

Lonnie Woods III is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.

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