May 18, 2020
Question: If I wanted to apply to a college that has Rolling Admissions, would I be restricted in applying Early Decision or Early Action to other colleges? Basically, could you apply to a college with Rolling Admissions and at the same time apply to a college Early Action and then, if both of those options are unsuccessful, apply Regular Decision?
Remember back in kindergarten when your teacher told you how important it was to follow directions? Well, you may need those skills more than ever as you trudge through the confusing college-admission maze. :(
If you are applying Early Action or Early Decision, you must locate a description of that option on the college's Web site to see if any “restrictions" apply. Note that the policies at one college may not be the same as those at similar schools, so read those Web instructions well!
Typically, an Early Action application doesn't prevent you from applying to another college via a non-binding Rolling Admission policy. Usually (but not always), you can also apply Early Action to other colleges concurrently. In most cases, you can apply to one college Early Decision, too (as long as you understand that you must accept the Early Decision spot, if it is offered).
BUT some Early Action colleges put restrictions on where else you can apply during the EA round. For example, colleges with “Single-Choice Early Action" prohibit you from applying elsewhere via Early Action or Early Decision (but exceptions can be made for public-university EA programs, so check Web sites carefully). However, you can apply elsewhere via non-binding rolling admission plans.
You may also encounter limitations such as those imposed by Boston College and Georgetown University that do allow Early Action applicants to apply elsewhere via Early Action but not via binding Early Decision.
So, to answer your question succinctly, you CAN apply via rolling admission and Early Action (or Early Decision) simultaneously. But if you are accepted at an Early Decision college, you are committed to attend (unless the financial aid offer you receive makes it impossible to do so. In that case, you can withdraw without penalty.)
If you are denied outright in the Early round (or via Rolling Admission) you cannot reapply. However, if you are deferred in the Early round, you will automatically be reconsidered with the Regular Decision applicant pool.
For more information on this confounding topic, check out "'Early action' isn't always as simple as it looks" by independent counselor Nancy Griesemer.
Good luck to you as you navigate this maze.