Rolling admissions can be stress-free — if you know how it works.

Rolling admissions, when used correctly, can put the odds in your favor in the college admissions process.

Rolling admissions means that instead of a strict college application deadline, the college accepts applications on a continual basis until all spots have been filled.

Sounds great, right? No rushing on the admissions essays, no last minute dash to the post office to make that deadline date, no stress.

It’s not that simple. If you don’t get your facts straight, rolling admissions actually can hurt your chances of getting in.

Different Colleges, Different Processes

Not all rolling admissions procedures are the same, and not all colleges offer rolling admissions. Find out the specific details about the rolling admissions processes of the colleges that you are applying to.

Some schools accept applications on a continual basis and then send out acceptance letters to applicants at one time. Whether they continue to accept applications after this mass mailing or not depends on the school (and, most likely, the quality of those applicants).

Other schools review applications as they arrive and send out that fateful yes or no as soon as they’ve decided about the individual candidate.

Positives and Negatives of Rolling Admissions

There’s no doubt that there are some definite advantages to rolling admissions.

Depending on the school, you may get an answer sooner than you would with a regular admissions policy – which can be a great reassurance and fantastic if your first choice school offers rolling admissions. Also, you may have better odds of getting in on a rolling admissions policy if you send in your application early.

That said, if you fall into the “no deadline” trap posed by rolling admissions and submit your application later than the rest of the pack, rolling admissions may decrease your chances of scoring a spot in the incoming class.

If the class has already been filled because of rolling admissions, your application won’t get the serious consideration it would have earlier in the process.

Deciding if You Will Enroll

Remember that some schools with rolling admissions policies may request that you give them your answer before May 1, the date by which college applicants generally are required to send in their replies.

If your first-choice school had rolling admissions and you got in – great! But you may be facing a tough choice if your rolling admissions application is accepted and you have yet to hear from other schools.

Questions? Contact the School

Call or email the college to find out more about their rolling admissions policy.

Do they send out their decisions at once? Will they evaluate and respond to each application immediately, on a case-by-case basis? When do they require a response from you, should you be offered a spot in the freshman class?

While rolling admissions policies may appeal to procrastinators wishing to avoid a last-minute rush to the post office, don’t get too lax about your applications just because there’s no January 1 deadline. When it comes to college applications, the motto “apply early, apply often” is good to remember, even in the case of rolling admissions.