What is Rolling Admissions in College?

Colleges of Distinction Staff / Colleges of Distinction »

Applying for college can be a stressful time. Waiting for a response back from the admissions department of your dream school can be even more stressful. As a whole, the application process can put a lot of pressure on a student if you’re not prepared. Incoming students and prospective students know that feeling all too well. 

That’s why some colleges have rolling admissions policies for how they evaluate college applications. Keep reading to find out the benefits of rolling admissions and how you can get the most out of applying earlier on in the process.

What is Rolling Admissions?

Typically, when colleges review applications, they have set deadlines for applications to be submitted. However, with rolling admissions, colleges evaluate applications as they are received instead of waiting to evaluate them after the deadline. This can give flexibility for students who may have strict deadlines or priority application deadlines for other colleges elsewhere that have a regular admissions process.

Rolling admissions allow schools to continue reviewing college applications until they’ve filled the spots for students in their incoming class. In a way, it’s on a first-come, first-served basis.

So, even though the rolling admissions operate on a wider time frame, you shouldn’t let the extra time fool you. Applying as early as possible can give you a better chance of landing a spot at your dream school. Schools may give more consideration to students who applied earlier on in the process, even if they do evaluate applications on a rolling basis. What’s more, the earlier you apply, the sooner you can get an answer.

Rolling admissions typically open in the fall and close either in the spring or when the incoming class of the school has been filled for the spring semester. The rolling admissions process can be pretty competitive, especially at schools that are commonly seen as selective and a little more difficult to be accepted to.

Different Types of Application Processes

There are different types of application processes and options available for students depending on the school.

For example, some schools set ‘priority’ deadlines before the official due date, giving those who submit their application early more consideration by the admissions team. Priority applications submitted after the deadline are typically not looked at until regular decision applications are reviewed.

These deadlines happen quickly, so you’ll likely be under more of a time crunch than you would if you applied for regular decision or rolling admissions.

Early deadlines can be set in schools that have both a standard due date as well as a rolling admissions policy. Be sure to check and see if the schools on your list have priority deadlines so you don’t miss out on getting your application in on time.

No matter which option you choose for your application, having a strong application and meeting your application dates is most important!

Tips for Success

1. Get organized 

College applications have a lot of different parts to them. Create a designated space to store everything you need, including your SAT or ACT scores, letters of recommendation, and personal essays. By the time you start applying, you’ll have everything ready to go in an easy-to-access folder.

After completing your school search, ke`ep a list of school deadlines to help you know when to finish your applications. Pay attention to those who have priority deadlines, hard deadlines, and rolling admissions.

It’s also vital to read the instructions for each of your college applications. Taking the time to read through the specifics carefully can help you make sure you have all of the information and materials necessary before sitting down to apply.

2. Consistently review and improve

If you’re not happy with an aspect of your application, like a test score or your personal essay, take some time to strengthen your application before applying.

Retake the SAT or ACT. Have a friend peer-review your personal essay. Figure out exactly who you want to write your letters of recommendation. However, don’t take too much time—remember that even though rolling admissions don’t have a “set” deadline, it’s still better to get your college applications in sooner rather than later.

3. Get your application in early for rolling admissions

As stated above, applying as early as possible with rolling admissions can be extremely beneficial. One of the downsides of rolling admissions is that qualified students who are interested in the school but apply later on in the application cycle have a higher chance of not being accepted to the program. Once an incoming class is filled, it’s filled! Working promptly on your applications could be the difference between getting accepted and not.

4. Ask questions!

Admissions processes vary by school, as do the instructions on each school’s website. If you ever have a hard time finding the information you need, it is always worthwhile to reach out to an actual staff member at the school itself. Admissions officers are available to help with any questions you may have—that’s what they’re there for!

If you can’t find the information you’re looking for on the college’s website, just give someone at the college a call. It’ll save you a lot of time you’d otherwise spend searching for information that hasn’t been posted online.


If you’re interested in a college that uses the rolling admissions process, now you know a few tips and tricks that can help you along the way. Knowing to be organized and timely can give you an advantage during the rolling admissions process.

When your college announces that the rolling admissions process is open, don’t delay! Get a head start on applying as soon as possible! It could be a strong factor in whether you get accepted.