You will find two kinds of admissions in use at American boarding schools: admissions with a fixed deadline and rolling admissions. Let's take a look at rolling admissions and how it compares with admissions with a fixed deadline.
What is rolling admissions?
Rolling admissions refers to a school's practice of accepting applications within an admissions application window and acting on those applications within a couple of weeks or months as opposed to waiting until a fixed deadline to act upon those applications.
How does rolling admissions work?
Let's assume the rolling admissions window opens on September 1. You could submit your completed application on September 2 and expect to have a decision back from the school within a time frame from two weeks to two months. At a school with a fixed deadline for admissions you could submit your application on September 2 but not hear whether your child had been accepted or not until sometime in March, assuming the fairly common January 31 deadline.
Professor Allen Grove explains the various kinds of admissions in great detail. This is a longish but very thorough video which is well worth bookmarking for later viewing.
Many schools with rolling admissions have a priority deadline. You would be wise to submit your application well in advance of that deadline. Once all the places are filled, applications from candidates who would otherwise have been accepted will go on a wait list.
When is rolling admissions used?
Rolling admissions is used in 221 of the 297 boarding schools listed here on Boarding School Review. Each school operates according to its own admissions schedules and protocols. Always ask what those schedules and protocols are. Do not assume that what one school does is the same as another.
What are the advantages of rolling admissions?
From the applicant's perspective rolling admissions gives added flexibility to the admissions process. It also removes the pressure of having to meet a fixed deadline. This flexibility allows you to arrange school visits, testing and all the other admissions details according to your scheduling requirements.
The other advantage of rolling admissions is that you would know whether or not your child has been accepted or not. Let's say that you applied as soon as the rolling admissions window opened. You should have a decision within two to six weeks. That still leaves time to apply to another school or schools before the January 31 admissions deadline which many schools still have in place.
What are the disadvantages of rolling admissions?
The biggest disadvantage of rolling admissions is that it can lull us parents into thinking that we have more time to apply than we actually have. Applying to any private school is a process. You have to stay organized. Work your checklists and stay on top of all the other deadlines in the process besides the application deadline. Registering for standardized testing must be done by a certain date. You will need to request transcripts and teacher recommendations. Those are essential components of most private school admissions applications. Stay on top of them even when schools have rolling admissions.
How does rolling admissions differ from other kinds of admissions?
Schools with rolling admissions fill available places during their rolling admissions window. Schools which do not have rolling admissions fill their places one time by basing their admissions decisions on completed applications received by their stated deadline. That is typically January 31 but it does vary from school to school. Acceptance letters will be mailed in mid-March. You will have to accept or refuse the place offered usually within thirty days.
How long after I submit my application will we receive a decision?
Each school operates according to its own admissions rules and protocols. So I cannot give you any hard and fast answers. Anywhere for two weeks to two months seems to be the norm. The other factor is the grade level to which you are applying. In some boarding schools places in grades 11 and 12 will be extremely limited while there will be less demand for grades 9 and 10. Ask the school. The admissions staff will be happy to answer those questions. Or ask your educational consultant. She will know the admissions history at specific schools or can find out for you.
What could hold up a decision on your application?
Completing your child's admissions folder could be delayed by teacher recommendations, transcripts, test results and any other items the school has as part of its admissions requirements. Use our checklists to organize choosing a school for your child. There are many details, dates and deadlines to keep track of.
How soon will I have to respond to the acceptance letter?
Once the school sends you an acceptance letter, you will be given a specific date by which you have to accept the place which has been offered or turn it down.
Who should look at a school which has rolling admissions?
Everybody should look at schools which have rolling admissions. Rolling admissions is not an indication that a school is having trouble filling places. Schools with rolling admissions are doing the same thing that colleges and universities have done with their admissions for many years. They are doing all they can to make the admissions process more friendly and accommodating to our schedules.
When is the best time to apply to a school with rolling admissions?
As soon as you can. As soon as all the places are filled, applicants who are accepted will be put on a waiting list. So it makes sense to apply as soon as you can. Shoot for a October-November time frame. That will also more than likely get you into the financial aid pool while there is still money left in that pool. This assumes that you need final aid.
Is rolling admissions open-ended?
Not exactly. Schools which use rolling admissions usually keep their admissions open until they have filled their classes. After that goal has been reached the schools will continue to receive applications with the understanding that any applicants which they would like to accept will be added to the wait list.
How does rolling admissions compare with fixed deadlines admissions?
Both rolling admissions and admissions with deadlines require a complete candidate folder before they can make a decision. In other words if your child's admissions folder is missing one or more required items such as test scores, teacher evaluations, etc., her admissions folder will sit in the pending pile until it is complete.
The other point of comparison is that very few of the highly selective private schools use rolling admissions.
Schools with rolling admissions offer your child a second chance if she is rejected at another school or schools.
Do you have questions about rolling admissions or anything else about boarding schools? You can tweet your questions to me Twitter. @boardingschoolreview