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7 Must-Know Rolling Admissions Tips

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

Rolling admissions: Just the name evokes a more relaxed feeling compared to the words “Early Decision,” doesn’t it? It sounds like the difference between stretching out on a beach in Costa Rica versus dodging rush hour traffic in New York City. 

You may be watching your friends scramble to meet application deadlines, while you’re secure in the knowledge that you don’t have a care in the world — at least, you’re not tied to an early college application deadline. 

It all begs the question: Is rolling admissions really that carefree? 


Let’s explain why not and guide you through what you need to know about this potentially competitive admissions type.

What is Rolling Admissions? 

Rolling admissions is one admission type that admissions offices use to enroll students. Put simply, the idea is that admission is granted on a first-come, first-serve basis.

In other words, you can apply for admission at any time and receive an acceptance letter relatively quickly. Admissions offices often review applications daily instead of sending acceptance (and rejection letters) all out on one specific day.

The earlier you send your application in, the earlier you’ll receive a decision from colleges and universities. Colleges and universities accept applications until all spots in the class fill up.

Which Schools Require Rolling Admissions?

Schools admit students using several different admission types. So which schools require rolling admissions? Niche compiled a full list of top colleges for 2021 that require rolling admissions. Niche weighted and based the results on a variety of factors, including: 

  • Academics: 40%
  • Value: 27.5%
  • Professors: 7.5%
  • Campus quality: 5%
  • Diversity: 5%
  • Student life: 5%
  • Student surveys: 5%
  • Local area: 2.5%
  • Safety: 2.5%

This list of best colleges that require rolling admissions is a great place to start and help you determine which schools you’re interested in that require rolling admissions.

Niche's 2021 Top Colleges with Rolling Admissions

Tips for Rolling with Rolling Admissions  

Check out these tips so you know exactly how to handle your rolling admissions application.


Tip 1: Some schools have priority deadlines for rolling admissions. 

You might actually face a priority application deadline for rolling admissions. In other words, if you apply by that specific date, you’ll have a better chance of getting in. 

However, can you still take your chances and apply after that date? 

Yes. Even so, it’s a good idea to apply by the specified priority application deadline date if you’re serious about getting accepted, particularly if that school skews toward a higher selectivity rate. 

Don’t forget to pay attention to other deadlines. Colleges and universities may handle resources such as financial aid, housing or merit-based scholarships on a first-come, first-served basis.


Tip 2: Don’t wait till July to apply. 

Schools with rolling admissions usually open up the submission period in the fall, on Sept. 1. However, many colleges with rolling admissions don’t have a hard cutoff date — which can lull you into a false sense of security, because spots still fill up at schools with rolling admissions. 

Most schools only have a specific number of spots available to students, and the longer you wait, the more it’s likely these spots will fill up. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you dawdle all fall and winter, then panic once the second semester of your senior year rolls around. 

One good way to get around this is to give yourself your own internal deadline, even if a particular school doesn’t require a specific deadline.


Tip 3: Talk to a real person if you have admission questions.

Check each college’s website carefully to understand how the admissions process works. If you can’t find the information on the admissions office or financial aid websites (some are fairly disorganized), one of the best things you can do is give each college a call and simply ask. Talking to a real live person allows you to ask detailed questions that pertain to your individual situation. An admissions counselor is usually more than happy to answer any questions you have.


What About Early Action and Early Decision?
Tip 4: Read the application directions carefully.

When you apply for a school that requires rolling admissions, you typically apply using the school’s own application (located on its website) or the Common App.  

Before you fill out the application, read the directions in detail. Seems obvious, right? 

It does. However, many admissions offices every year receive incomplete applications — some applications are never submitted, some forget to include transcripts, test scores or letters of recommendation. Many mistakes are completely preventable with a little proofreading. 

(As an admissions counselor, one of my students tried explaining his volunteer efforts by typing, “I delivered toilet trees to a local shelter.” He was trying to spell “toiletries.”)

Check for: 

  • Required letters of recommendation
  • Correct information on every section of the application
  • Accuracy with your name, address, class rank and other data
  • Typos, poor grammar and spelling mistakes
  • The right transcripts — make sure they are the most recent version
  • Whether the application needs your signature

This is good advice no matter whether you’re applying for admission, for scholarships, etc. Offer the application to an English teacher, your grandma, anyone you know who you can trust to catch your punctuation mistakes and who has an eye for grammar.


Tip 5: Check in with the college.

Sometimes you don’t hear back, you don’t hear back, you don’t hear back. This could be a signal that something’s wrong.

Check in with the college to make sure the college actually received your application. You may have forgotten to hit “submit” on the application, or started the application, got busy, then wondered, “Did I ever finish that?”

The admissions office also can’t process your application without all the required pieces. If you don’t hear back within a few weeks or within the promised amount of time on the school’s website, ask some questions about what’s going on.


Tip 6: Know that getting in isn’t necessarily a guarantee.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that schools with rolling admissions are easy to get into and that they’ll automatically accept you. 

This isn’t necessarily true. When you know the deadlines are more lenient, it can give you a false sense of security.

Getting into many schools with a low grade point average can prove difficult. Find out about each school’s academic requirements before you apply. This will give you an indication as to whether you’ve got a safety school, match school or reach school on your hands. A quick overview of each:

  • Safety school: A safety school is a school that reports that your academic credentials are above average compared to the school’s reported freshman range. Make sure you’re okay with attending your safety school, just in case you don’t get into your match or reach schools. 
  • Match school: A match school is a school you’re likely to get into based on the school’s current freshman academic profile (the high school academic credentials of the class as a whole). You’ll likely be admitted based on your academic credentials and you will more than likely attend this school. 
  • Reach school: A reach school is not a guaranteed shoo-in, and to be honest, could be a complete pipe dream because your academic credentials are lower than the college or university’s freshman academic profile.

Can a college or university that requires rolling admissions be a reach school for you? 

Of course!


Tip 7: Take rolling admissions just as seriously as other admissions types.

Do you have a mix of admission types on your list? For example, maybe you’re applying for one school Early Action (Early Action means you have the option to submit an application before the regular deadline) and the rest of the schools on your list require rolling admissions. 

Don’t spend all your time on the Early Action application and leave the rest to chance, because all the rolling admissions schools might end up being your match schools — the ones that are ideal for your academic and personal profile.

Give equal weight to all the schools on your list so you have the best shot possible with each one.

Understand Rolling Admissions—And Don’t Get Too Comfy

So, what’s the bottom line with this more-relaxed-but-not-relaxed admissions type? 

The bottom line is that it’s not a good idea to flop into a recliner and not get up till January. Furthermore, you should learn any and all information you possibly can ahead of time. 

Call admissions offices and find out when you really should apply. Don’t be afraid to ask, “I know you have a priority deadline, but can I reasonably expect to get admitted after the deadline?” You can also flat-out ask, “When should I apply to your school and to get the best chance of being admitted?”

Don’t be afraid to ask any other questions you have. Your admissions counselor at each school should want to help you through every step of the admissions process.

Author: Melissa Brock

Melissa Brock is the founder of College Money Tips and Money editor at Benzinga. She loves helping families navigate their finances and the college search process. Check out her essential timeline and checklist for the college search!