What is rolling admission?

Rolling admission colleges receive and respond to college applications during a larger window of time or “as they roll in.” Students can apply to these colleges almost anytime and then typically hear back sooner than they will from colleges with only standard admissions. Rolling admission colleges respond on average between four to six weeks. Rolling admission can be particularly helpful if a student needs to apply after normal application deadlines.


Some schools offer a hybrid of regular and rolling admissions. Some even mix in early-action and early-decision types of admissions. Here’s how Penn State admissions work:

  • Early action with a deadline of November 1 (to hear by December 24)
  • Rolling admission with a priority deadline of December 1 (to hear by January 31)
  • Rolling admission after December 1
  • Some programs have limited enrollment and specific application dates.

Michigan State is a similar example, with priority (early action and regular admission) deadlines of November 1 and February 1 and rolling admission after February 1. They also recommend that students apply by November 1 to increase their chances for admission and scholarships.

Marquette University, in Wisconsin, changed their admissions deadlines because of new, earlier FAFSA filers (applications open October 1; in 2023 the FAFSA opens in December due to major upgrades). Marquette has a recommended deadline of December 1, but students applying before this date will receive their decisions before January 1. This allows more flexibility for students, allowing them to know college decisions earlier in their senior year of high school. 

Advantages of Rolling Admission

Note: Policies of schools may vary, so it’s important to contact the school or look on their website for more information about their specific policies.

1. Earn admission early

A benefit of rolling admission is that you can hear back about your application earlier than most regular admission schools. Rolling admission typically lets you know about your application four to six weeks after you submit it. This can add a level of confidence to the admissions process—and could be a help as you negotiate scholarships and financial aid with your top college choices later on. 

Compared to early action or early decision, rolling admissions can be a great, non-binding option to hear back from colleges early. As you apply to multiple colleges, start with your applications for rolling admissions schools. You’ll get a college decision from those choices sooner.

2. Earn scholarships and financial aid early

At some rolling admission schools, you can also get accepted for scholarships that you might not be eligible for once more students apply. For example, let’s say a certain scholarship is typically offered to students who have a 32 or higher on the ACT. But if you have a 31 and apply early (if that college has a rolling admission policy) you might still receive the award because at that time they don’t know how many eligible students will apply. 

Rolling admission can especially work in your favor if you have good scores and apply early. However, make sure that you look at the specific policies of the schools you are interested in attending. They might have separate, non-rolling dates for some scholarships. 

Further, if a specific college or program has a limited amount of aid to give, it will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis until it is gone. You don’t want to apply too late and miss this opportunity to help you become a college graduate with minimal debt. 

3. Apply after other deadlines

Sometimes it takes until crunch time to make the best decisions! That’s why the flexibility of rolling admission can be helpful. It allows students to apply after what might be normal deadlines and hear back from other schools they might have added to their list late. However, this isn’t something that we recommend as a habit. It’s best to apply even earlier to rolling admission schools, so you can make sure you get into the programs you want with the scholarships and financial aid you need.

Final Thoughts on Rolling Admissions

Rolling admission doesn’t mean there are no deadlines. In fact, if you really want to attend a school with rolling admissions, your best option is to apply early in the fall. Create your own “deadline” and motivate yourself to get your application in as soon as you can. 

Get an early start on your applications, starting with the schools that have rolling admissions. You might increase your chance of admission and can often increase your scholarships and financial aid. Need help navigating the college admissions process? Learn more about OnToCollege College Counseling. 

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College admissions can be complex, but you don’t have to do it alone. John Baylor and OnToCollege are here to help.