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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Rolling Admissions

By Brendan Conway updated on Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Advantages

  • Expect to hear back in 4 to 8 weeks after submitting the application
  • If you apply late, you can potentially find a spot after all other deadlines have come and gone
  • Used correctly, can help you avoid competition (and stress)
  • Provide flexibility in options and results


Disadvantages

  • Best used early in the admissions process
  • Sometimes, there are still deadlines in place
  • Can be highly competitive, at certain times of year
  • Can potentially lock you in to making decisions sooner than you would otherwise have to


Advantage: Rolling Admissions Lets You Hear Back Early

Most of the time, in non-rolling admissions, you'll have to wait a good long time to hear back from the schools to which you apply. Schools won't start judging applications until the full deadline is up, and then they'll judge all applications at the same time, sending out responses once they've made their full decisions.

With rolling admissions, your application will be examined as soon as it's received. The result is that you'll likely be hearing much, much earlier than you would for any other application, especially if you submit your rolling admissions application in the fall.

So why is that a good thing? Well, for a couple reasons.

If you want a decision early, so you can base the rest of your college applications around it, rolling admissions is a great choice. If you know the school you want to get into early on in your college admissions process, rolling admissions is an option right there alongside early action and early decision.


Disadvantage: Rolling Admissions Works Best Early

Want to get the most out of rolling admissions? Then you really have to apply early. Many of the greatest advantages of rolling admissions only arise if you put in your application early. You're not going to be hearing back from rolling admissions schools earlier than most schools unless you submitted your application to the rolling admissions schools early, too.

And that's not to mention that getting into a rolling admissions school can get significantly harder the longer you wait to apply. Most rolling admissions schools have a limited number of student slots, and as they judge and accept applications, those slots get filled. If you apply too late, then there's a good chance all the slots may be filled, and you'll be out of luck.


Advantage: Rolling Admissions Can Be A Last Recourse

Even though applying late can be dangerous because of the limited number of slots most rolling admissions schools have, it can also sometimes be a useful last resort.

Many rolling admissions schools don't actually have cut-off dates for applications; they keep accepting applications until all the student slots in the new class are filled. So even if you're late with your applications, it's still worth applying to rolling admissions schools; a lower probability of getting accepted is better than no probability at all.


Disadvantage: Rolling Admissions Schools Can Still Have Deadlines

A school with rolling admissions can still have a deadline. Rolling admissions more refers to the way that the school deals with and responds to applications than it does to the absence or presence of application deadlines.

So keep in mind that not all rolling admissions schools will be available as last recourses if you're running late with those applications.


Advantage: Rolling Admissions Can Increase Your Chances for Acceptance

As mentioned earlier, with standard admissions, all applications are judged at the same time, after the application deadline has passed. This means that you're going to be judged in direct competition with everyone else who has applied. If you've got a strong enough application, then this won't be an issue, but if you're applying at a competitive school, there's a good chance that the other applicants will likely have strong applications of their own.

If you apply with rolling admissions, however, your application will not be judged when it's received. This means it might not be judged against so many competing applications, especially if you apply earlier in the admissions process.


Disadvantage: Rolling Admissions Isn't Devoid of Competition

We said it before, and we'll say it again: it gets harder and harder to get into a school with rolling admissions the longer you delay your application. Even if you apply early, there's a fair bet other students have had the same thought. But applying late means that your application will be coming up against significant competition. 


Advantage: Rolling Admissions Opens Up Options

Unlike early decision (but like early acceptance), applying with rolling admissions does not bind you to the school. So if you get in, fantastic! But you aren't required to go there, just because you applied and got in. If you applied early enough, then you'll know long in advance that you're already accepted somewhere (which should take a load of stress off you), and you'll be able to plan accordingly.

Got accepted where you want to be? Great! You don't need to apply anywhere else. Still want to hear back from other places? Sure! Just hold off on committing to the rolling admissions school until you've heard back from the other places. 


Disadvantage: Rolling Admissions Can Make You Choose Early

While rolling admissions does open up options, every school is different. Some might let you wait until the same time that most schools expect a response about acceptance, so you'll be fine waiting to hear back from anywhere and everywhere. Other rolling admissions schools might expect an early response if they give you an early acceptance, though.

You aren't required to commit, no matter what, but you may not have time to wait and hear back from every other school you've applied to. If that's the case, you'll either have to turn down the rolling admissions school, or plan on matriculating there, before you get all the responses from the other schools.



About the Author

Brendan Conway is the Web Content Editor for Peterson's Interactive and is well-versed in the world of higher education and admissions. He is a graduate of Hamilton College, and has been working in admissions advice, test-prep advice, career planning advice, and similar fields for the majority of his career since graduation. Brendan endeavors to provide the most relevant, useful, and interesting information via Peterson's Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ feeds. Brendan enjoys lexicological oddities and voraciously reading in his free time.

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