College applications are a great primer for other, equally inexplicably long and complicated endeavors you’ll undertake as an adult like filing your taxes or buying a car. Between taking the SAT, writing essays, and gathering letters of recommendation, it’s difficult enough to meet any application deadlines, much less manage the myriad application deadlines options at your disposal.
You have your Early Action, Early Decision, Regular Admission, Rolling Admission, Rolling Admission with Priority Deadline… Enough to leave your head, and calendar app, spinning. But if you know how to leverage admissions cycles and deadlines, you can make them work to your advantage.
Rolling admissions happens when colleges accept applications until they’ve filled all the spots in their incoming class. Rolling admissions, when used with some forethought, can be used strategically to save you time, money, and maybe even some of the swirling anxiety that comes with applying to colleges. Here are five things you NEED to know:
Several months before you begin actually applying to colleges, start to narrow your college choices, and get to know which application model they use. Some may use a combination of these, and you’ll want to know when your applications need to be ready, and how you’ll manage your time in applying. Visit each school’s website and get organized with a calendar so you know when you need to send applications and to whom. Deadlines will help you prioritize your time.
With rolling admissions, you’ll typically receive a decision in four to eight weeks. This allows you to, at the very least, have a good backup option while you wait for schools with regular admission cycles to respond. Imagine knowing you’ve got a spot in a great school before Thanksgiving. But, and this is a big one, rolling admissions doesn’t mean you can wait forever. Because colleges are accepting candidates as they are accepting applications, they do eventually fill all their available seats. Applying late in the rolling admissions cycle means you are applying for fewer spots, and possibly less available financial aid.
Colleges with rolling admissions will have application windows that stretch into the summer or even right up until classes start in the fall, space permitting. While we would never (neeeeeever) encourage you to procrastinate, even the best laid plans can go awry. Or, life gets in the way, or you change your mind about college at the last minute. Colleges with rolling admissions can leave some doors open for you for applications late in the cycle, especially if you’ve been denied admission elsewhere.
In fact, it may mean more competition during some portions of the application cycle. Odds are, you’re not the only strong applicant with the idea to apply early, so you will face competition. The later you wait in the rolling admissions window, the stiffer the competition becomes. Remember that in addition to freshman seats, you’re also competing for valuable pieces of the college puzzle such as housing, scholarships, and financial aid.
Being admitted to college is exciting, and the prospect of not fretting over admission can be a huge relief. Unfortunately, it can also tempt you to commit to a school before you’ve weighed all your options. Many schools don’t require you to respond with your decision to attend until May 1, under a practice known as the Candidates Reply Date Agreement (CRDA). If you’ve applied to multiple schools, you can and should wait so that you can make the very best decision for your future. If a school doesn’t subscribe to CRDA and wants an answer from you earlier, don’t hesitate to contact admissions and ask for an extension to their deadline until you’ve heard from all your schools.
How are you managing your application process? Will you be applying Early Decision? Let us know what your strategy is and we may turn it into a future blog post.