Key to understanding The Application Process and setting Deadlines & Timelines is understanding Application Plans. Colleges generally offer one to five Application Plans. By Application Plan, I mean a way of applying to their College, in terms of timing and the related terms. With the exception of Colleges that offer a Rolling Admission Application Plan, generally a College will offer a Regular Decision Application Plan and some sort of early Application Plan: Early Action, Early Decision or Restrictive Early Action.
A Rolling Admission (RA) plan means you can apply to a College anytime during their enrollment period, which might be as early as late summer of your junior year, to as late as during the summer after your senior year. Many Colleges will leave the enrollment open until all of the seats are filled, which means the enrollment period can end early or extend late. RA Colleges generally notify you within approximately 4-8 weeks of your application. RA College’s policy regarding when you must commit varies widely, so this is an important variable you must consider when planning where/when you will apply. The earlier you apply to a RA College, the more likely you will be accepted. But if you need to raise your grades and/or test scores to increase your chances of being accepted, you can wait to apply RA, although waiting may increase your competition.
To determine which application plans are offered at a particular College, type <school name> undergraduate admissions deadlines in your search engine. There are over 200 Colleges that offer a Rolling Admissions plan – type <list of Rolling Admission Colleges> in your search engine to see lists of RA Colleges. You may also apply to other Colleges via Early Decision, Early Action, Regular Decision and Restrictive Early Action at the same time you apply to an RA College. Some Colleges have their own policy for when/how you can apply to other Colleges, so be sure to check their admissions webpages to confirm.
Check out The Application Process to organize your application components.
ADVANTAGES OF RA FOR THE COLLEGE
- RA Colleges are able to review RA applications as they arrive, enabling a quick turnaround and less stress for the Admissions Office.
- As the Freshman slots are filled, RA Colleges can become very selective.
ADVANTAGES OF RA FOR THE APPLICANT
- RA gives you the freedom to apply when you are ready.
- If you apply early to a RA college, your chances of acceptance are better: as a RA College’s Freshman slots are filled, the college can become more selective.
- It’s possible to hear back from an RA College shortly after your senior year begins. If you are accepted into your first choice College, you can be done with the entire application process as early as September, and then eliminate the hassle/stress of applying to Colleges during your senior year.
- While it is not recommended, RA is the opportunity to apply to a College if you have procrastinated or are not happy with where you have been accepted, because it’s possible to apply RA after other applications plans deadlines have past.
DISADVANTAGES OF RA FOR THE APPLICANT
- A RA College MAY require you to commit earlier than you are ready. Some RA Colleges don’t require you to commit until 5/1, the same as Regular Decision. But some RA Colleges require you commit sooner, which means you may have to commit to a RA College before you have heard back from all of your other Colleges.
One of the best ways to determine if a College is “the one”, is to visit that College overnight, staying in a dorm room with a current student, attending classes, eating in the cafeteria and soaking up the atmosphere. Most Colleges do not allow overnight visits until the fall of a student’s senior year. Some families may choose to wait for both scheduling reasons and to save money to send their senior to visit a particular College until they know they have been accepted. If a RA College requires an early commitment, that doesn’t allow much time; on the other hand, some RA Colleges do not require an early commitment. Fortunately, because accepted students are notified over time, instead of on a particular date, there will be less of an issue with too many students wanting to visit the College at the same time.
There are many articles regarding application plans. Peterson’s has comprehensive information on RA.