College Decisions: What Is Rolling Admission?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Rolling admission means that a college or university reviews applications continually, so you can expect to get a decision faster. Learn more about this type of college decision.

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There are different types of college applications, and each one has specific deadlines and decision requirements. With regular decision, for example, colleges and universities set a deadline—usually sometime between January and February—before they start reviewing applications and begin making decisions about who to admit. This applies to incoming first-year students, transfer students, and those interested in pursuing a second bachelor’s degree

That’s not the case with rolling admission. Rather than wait to receive all student applications, a college’s admissions committee will review applications on an ongoing basis. In this article, we’ll go into more detail about how rolling admission works, how to determine whether a college offers rolling admission, and whether it’s the right way to apply for you. 

Learn more: Applying to College: Your Step-by-Step Guide

How rolling admission works 

Rolling admission means that a college or university reviews applications and releases admission decisions continually, so you can expect to get a decision within four to six weeks after applying. That’s because college admissions committees do not wait until they have received all applications before deciding who to accept—they make those decisions on a rolling basis. 

With other types of college decisions, you may not hear back as quickly because colleges set different decision timeframes, such as late winter for early decision and early action, or spring for regular decision. Depending on when in the application window you apply, it could be a few months before you hear back.

It’s worth noting that rolling admission schools will fill spots on a continual basis, so there may be fewer openings the later you apply. In that sense, it can be beneficial to submit your application early. Each school sets different standards for admissions in general and rolling admission specifically. Make sure to review the colleges and universities you’re interested in attending for additional information. 

Learn more: Is a Bachelor’s Degree Worth It?

Rolling admission decisions

While there may be less competition earlier in the college application process, rolling admission does not guarantee acceptance. As with regular and early decision acceptances, being accepted to a school that uses rolling admission is nonbinding, meaning that you do not have to go to that school if you get into another you’re more interested in attending. In the US, you will typically have to let a school know by May 1 whether you plan on attending. 



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Advantages of rolling admission

Although applying to a rolling admission college doesn't guarantee acceptance—you'll still need to present yourself as a qualified candidate—there are some advantages to including a rolling admission school on your college list. Here are a few:

  1. Faster decisions can alleviate some college stress. Not knowing whether you'll be accepted into any of your preferred schools can be stressful. Applying to a school with rolling admissions reduces the time between submitting your college application and receiving your admissions decision. Even if your rolling admission school isn't your top choice, at least you can rest easy knowing that you have one acceptance in hand.

  2. Applying early can help your chance of admission. Although there's no replacement for a strong application, applying to a rolling admission school early in their application window may reduce your direct competition with your peers.

  3. Staggered application deadlines can ease your overall college application process. Facing several deadlines in a tight timeframe can be overwhelming, but submitting one application early can encourage you to complete certain reusable portions of your application—such as asking for your letters of recommendation—ahead of schedule.

Colleges that offer rolling admission

Not every college or university offers rolling admission. In fact, as of 2021, only 130 National Universities—or research institutions that offer full undergraduate and some graduate programs—in the US had rolling admission [1]. You can find out more about the admissions deadlines and application requirements from the schools you’re interested in attending by searching for their name and “admissions.” 

Many public universities feature this option, as do many online degree programs. Universities on Coursera typically admit students twice a year, meaning you can start your degree sooner. Learn more about earning your bachelor’s degree from the University of London or the University of North Texas. 

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Other types of admission decisions 

Rolling admission can sometimes seem similar to early action and priority deadline

  • Early action applications typically have a set deadline, usually in early to mid-November. If you apply to a school via early action, you are guaranteed to get your decision by mid-December.

  • Priority deadline applications are when colleges give you “priority” consideration. In other words, by applying early you’re being given a stronger chance at getting in, and getting a range of financial aid options that might not be available as spots fill up. 

The two other main types of admissions are early decision and regular decision. 

  • Early decision has a similar timeframe as early action, but it is binding, meaning that you have committed to attending the school if you get in. 

  • Regular decision typically involves applying sometime between January and February (depending on your college’s deadline) and getting a decision sometime between March and April. 

Learn more: When Are College Applications Due: Key Admissions Deadlines



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Is rolling admission right for you? 

Some colleges you apply to may use rolling admission, which can be beneficial for a few reasons. 

  • Quicker decision: You will receive a decision in four to six weeks. 

  • Less competition early on: In a regular decision pool, you will be weighed against all students who apply. But with rolling admission, there may not be as many applicants at first, so you may have a higher chance of being admitted. 

  • Scholarships: Many schools give out scholarships on a first-come, first-served basis. You may be eligible for more scholarships available earlier in the application process. 

Learn more: When Is FAFSA Due? Important 2023-2024 Deadlines

Explore further 

Learn flexibly from leading universities on Coursera. Earn your bachelor’s degree at your own pace. Try an open course to see if online learning is right for you. 

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Article sources

  1. US News. “Top 13 National Universities with Rolling Admissions,” Accessed February 10, 2023. 

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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