If you’re planning to start college next year but still don’t have a first choice or haven’t nailed down the final list of where you want to apply, rolling admission may work in your favor.

With a standard college admission approach, the application process follows a set timeline. Typically, all students must apply by a specific date, and applications are compared against each other—in one big batch. Rolling admission, on the other hand, allows you to submit your application anytime during a designated period, and the school evaluates them as they come in.

Many schools with rolling admission have later deadlines—often starting on September 1 and running through spring or whenever all available spots are filled. So if you’re a current high school senior continuing to explore your options, consider some of the advantages and potential pitfalls of rolling admission to determine whether it can work for you.

If you get a quick acceptance from a school you like, you may be able to skip applying to some colleges you’re on the fence about or only using as safety schools. 

The Upsides

Rolling admission can minimize the angst of waiting until April for admission news because you’ll learn your admission status early, typically two to six weeks after your application is received. The extra time can help you evaluate financial aid packages and make a more thoughtful decision about where to enroll.

Rolling admission also creates an expanded application window that can give you a chance to explore a wider range of schools, perhaps even including some hidden gems you may have initially overlooked. “Through this process, I have seen many instances when a student is surprised to find their perfect fit, whether due to a generous scholarship that makes it affordable, an attractive location that they had not previously considered, or because they enjoy the diversity that a particular campus has to offer,” says Roxanna Cruz, former associate vice president of recruitment and admissions at Barry University, which has a rolling admission policy.

Conversely, rolling admission can also help you whittle down your list early on. If you get a quick acceptance from a school you like, you may be able to skip applying to some colleges you’re on the fence about or only using as safety schools.

The Possible Downsides

While you may feel like you have lots of time with rolling admission, that can be a false sense of security. Waiting until the last moment can do a disservice to your chances of admission. Acting quickly gives you a strategic advantage, because getting into the mix early when there are more slots available can increase your admission odds.

Making It Work for You

The best strategy for using rolling admission to your advantage is to submit applications for your target and safety schools ASAP. Then take advantage of the longer application window to broaden your horizons, widening the search to find a few creative or surprising options. This will ensure you have a diverse mix of schools and perhaps get some good news much earlier than you might expect.


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