What is a Rolling-Admission Priority Deadline?

Question: What is a “priority deadline” at a college with rolling admissions? I thought that “rolling” meant that, whenever you send everything in and your file is complete, admission committees will look at you.

Rolling admission does mean exactly what you say, but there’s often a catch. That is, colleges may only continue to evaluate applications until the class is full, so it’s always wise to apply sooner rather than later, if possible, just to be sure that all the freshman spots aren’t taken by the time you get around to submitting all your forms.

The meaning of “Priority Deadline” will vary from school to school. Sometimes the Priority Deadline carries with it the promise of better housing options or course selections. Sometimes it applies to financial aid as well. In fact, if you are an applicant for aid, check carefully to make sure that you won’t be shut out if you apply too late. Colleges that “roll” on admission decisions may have finaid deadlines that are not so generous or may not have money left for those who wait too long.

Thus, it’s worth a quick e-mail to admission offices (or a phone call, if it’s easier) to find out just what benefits—if any—meeting a Priority Deadline will provide you. Sometimes the only benefits are to the admission folks themselves who want to snare the top applicants with an affirmative decision as soon as possible.

Another thing to check: If admitted, find out how soon you must respond. Colleges that subscribe to the “Candidates’ Reply Date” must give you until May 1, regardless of when you receive your thumbs up. Other institutions, however, might demand a speedier acceptance of their offer, which won’t give you sufficient time to hear from other schools.