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Articles / Applying to College / Rolling Admission

Nov. 11, 2002

Rolling Admission

Question: Can you explain Rolling Admission?

The idea behind “Rolling Admission” is that it enables candidates to receive an admission decision within a predetermined period after submitting an application. Typically, the decision arrives about two months after the application process is complete and often far sooner.


Colleges without Rolling Admission usually have a specific deadline, and no applications are evaluated before this deadline, no matter how early they are received. All decision letters are then mailed to candidates on the same day, which is generally in late March or early April.

Rolling admission can take some of the agony out of the admission process. If you are admitted to a Rolling Admission school, you can relax and know that you have at least one college option, even as you wait for other schools to notify you down the road.

Rolling admission often catches the eye of procrastinators (“Look, Ma, no deadlines!”) but keep in mind that, at some colleges and universities, financial aid and housing may be doled out on a first-come, first-served basis, which means that those who wait until the last minute may secure a place in the entering class but not the money to pay for it or a bed to sleep in. Many Rolling Admission colleges will continue to admit students until all places have been filled, right up to the start of the semester, while others have final dates after which no applications are considered. Some schools have Rolling Admission application deadlines but earlier, more stringent deadlines for financial aid, so be sure to check carefully if you are an aid applicant.

When you apply to Rolling Admission colleges, it’s wise to ask several questions. Find out how early you can submit an application and if sooner is better when it comes to getting aid, housing, choices of classes or academic program. Find out, too, if these determinations are based on the date you applied or on the date you accepted the offer of admission. Ask also how quickly you should expect to get your newsâ€"good or badâ€"in the mail and when you need to inform the college of your plans.

Many colleges subscribe to what is called the Candidates Reply Date Agreement (CRDA). If you apply to a CRDA college, it means thatâ€"no matter how early you get your admission decision (and an offer of financial aid, if applicable)â€"you have until May 1 to let that school know if you will attend. That gives you time to hear from other colleges on your list.

Thus, if you apply via Rolling Admission, don’t forget to ask admission officials how soon you need to respond, if admitted. Those institutions that do not belong to the CRDA group may insist on hearing from you before you have received all admission decisions. If this is the case, find out if you can get an extension in order to wait for all your letters to arrive. If the answer is no, you might want to consider delaying your Rolling Admission application until the notification date coincides with the notification you will receive from your remaining target schools.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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