What Are Rolling College Admissions?

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Many universities have strict application deadlines. Miss that priority deadline and you'll have to wait until the next semester to apply. But many colleges also now have rolling admissions that allow you to apply any time of year for the semester that follows.

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What Are Rolling Admissions?

College applications can be stressful as you try to meet various application deadlines. But there are quite a few schools that provide a more flexible admissions process to make things easier for overstressed applicants. These schools have something called rolling admissions, which simply means that you can place your college application whenever you want.

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There are rolling admissions schools across the country. Here are a few top colleges that have more flexible application deadlines:

  • Penn State:​ Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, but priority is given to early applicants.
  • Arizona State University:​ ASU accepts applications on a rolling basis, but students will need to meet admissions deadlines to get approval in time.
  • The University of Alabama​​:​ You'll need to get your application in early to qualify for scholarships, but The University of Alabama reviews applications throughout the year.

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Early Action and Early Decision

As you're applying for colleges, it's important to be aware of two options for students going through the college admissions process: early action and early decision. These are two options available at some schools that will up your chances of admission. But the key thing to know is that in both instances, you'll have to apply early to qualify.

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Both early action and early decision require you to get started early. With early decision, you'll have to attend the school if you're chosen, while early action lets you opt out. Some schools with low acceptance rates may even require you to agree to only apply early decision or early action to their school in a process called single-choice early action.

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Many colleges now have rolling admissions that allow you to apply any time of year for the semester that follows.

Rolling Admissions and Financial Aid

Getting accepted to college is only the first step. You'll also need to pay for your education. If you're applying for financial assistance, you'll find many of those processes have specific deadlines that will make waiting until the last minute a bad idea.

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The biggest deadline to note is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In your senior year of high school, you'll likely want to start listing colleges you're interested in attending. The FAFSA has a hard deadline of ​June 30​ for the academic year that begins the fall following. You'll also need to make sure you have your test scores in on time to meet all your deadlines.

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Advantages of Rolling Admissions

For students stressing over the college enrollment process, rolling admissions can be a great relief. Here are a few reasons higher education institutions that offer rolling admissions are worth considering.

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  • Quick turnaround:​ Colleges with rolling deadlines can make admissions decisions on the fly, so you'll often hear back faster than you will with schools that have regular admission deadlines.
  • Early bird advantage:​ If you get an early start in the application process, you can get ahead of many applicants and boost your shot at an acceptance.
  • Latecomer advantage:​ Yes, even procrastinators can benefit from schools that have a rolling admissions policy. At other schools, if you miss the deadline, you're typically out of luck, but if there are still slots available, rolling admissions means you may be able to squeak in at the last minute.
  • Keep your options open:​ Unless you promise exclusivity through Second-Choice Early Action, you can apply to multiple rolling-admissions schools and choose from the offers. This helps you keep your options open without requiring you to scramble to meet a bunch of set deadlines.

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Not all schools are rolling admissions colleges, and your dream school might not offer that option. But there are some advantages to rolling admissions applications, including the fact that you can earn an advantage by applying extra early. Schools that review applications throughout the year will also give you extra last-minute options if your first choice of schools falls through.

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