Inside Admissions: What Are Rolling Admissions?

Last updated: Oct 18, 2019

Once you start the college application process, you’ll be exposed to a lot of new admissions terms. Some you may already be familiar with, such as “early action” or “regular decision.” Others you may be hearing for the first time. For example, what are rolling admissions? 

Rolling admissions are a common method most often used by large universities (including USF) to evaluate applicants. In a nutshell, it means admissions officers review candidates and render decisions as applications are received. Under other admission methods, including early action and regular decision, admissions officers wait for a final deadline to pass, review all applications, and then issue all decisions on a designated day.

Still confused? Here are the answers to the top 6 most commonly asked questions about rolling admissions.

6. Do I Have to Meet Any Deadlines, or Can I Apply Anytime?

Universities with rolling admissions usually offer a large application window. For example, at USF, you can apply any time between July 1 and March 1 for fall admission. Students are continually admitted until all slots are filled, so it’s advantageous to apply early.

Within the application window, there may be a priority deadline. This means that although you can apply any time, you may be guaranteed to receive a decision by a certain date or receive consideration for scholarships & financial aid if you apply by the priority deadline. For example, at USF, you can apply any time before March 1, but you will be automatically considered for merit-based admissions scholarships if you apply by Jan. 15.

5. When Will I Receive an Admission Decision?

The short answer is “it depends,” but generally, you can expect to receive a decision in about four to six weeks. There are a number of factors that can come into play, such as how fast you submit supporting application materials (like transcripts and test results), the program you’re applying to, and the number of applications received at a given time.

Students working on computers.

4. Are Rolling Admissions Decisions Binding?

Unlike early-decision, rolling admissions decisions are non-binding. Typically, you have until May 1 (National College Decision Day) to decide whether or not you will accept a university’s offer of admission, although some schools do have earlier deadlines.

3. What Are the Advantages of Rolling Admissions?

You can expect to hear back from rolling admissions universities much faster than others, which can help reduce stress. If this is your dream school, you can confidently accept the offer and enjoy the rest of your senior year. If not, you can rest easy knowing you have one acceptance in the bag while you wait for other decisions.

If you apply early, rolling admissions also can increase your chances of acceptance because your application will be evaluated on its own merits instead of against all other applications. On the flip side, rolling admissions is a great option for students who get a late start on the application process or those who realize that other schools they applied to aren't a good fit.

2. What Are the Disadvantages of Rolling Admissions?

Applying late may make it harder to get accepted to schools with rolling admission. There can be significant competition later in the admissions cycle, and qualified applicants may not be accepted because all slots are already full.

1. How Can I Tell if a University Has Rolling Admissions?

For a quick answer, check out PrepScholar’s comprehensive online list. Remember though, it’s always a good idea to verify information directly with the school, either through their official website or by talking to an admissions advisor.

Our USF admissions advisors are happy to answer your questions about the USF admissions process, so contact us online or by phone at 813-974-3350.