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Articles / Applying to College / What is a Rolling-Admission Priority Deadline?

What is a Rolling-Admission Priority Deadline?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Feb. 21, 2003

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 benefitsâ€"if anyâ€"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.

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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