A hand drawn graphic of a leaf and a caterpillar.

Rolling Admissions at Private Schools: What You Need to Know

Daren Worcester
Mar 18, 2023
5 minute read

What are rolling admissions? It’s when K–12 private schools accept and evaluate admission applications on an ongoing basis instead of having a fixed application deadline and review period. Many schools utilizing rolling admissions also offer mid-year enrollment in addition to the traditional start-of-school entry period. 

Over the past few years, more and more private schools are turning to a rolling admissions model for the increased flexibility; however, rolling admissions also offers applying families several distinct benefits.

“For families who may have come late to the idea of [a private or boarding school] for their child,” said Rachel Carter, associate director of admissions at North Country School in Lake Placid, New York, “specifically looking for schools who use rolling admissions might offer them the best chance of finding a place for the upcoming fall.”

Waiting to change schools until the following fall isn’t always necessary. “Mid-year enrollment allows families who may not be familiar with independent schools an opportunity to research and learn more to help in the decision-making process,” said Keri Allard, associate director of enrollment at Madison Country Day School in Waunakee, Wisconsin. 

In short, “Rolling admissions means that education is ready for you when you need it,” said Sarina Hamer, admissions and outreach coordinator at Lydian Academy in Menlo Park, California. “If there is a bad grade or a bad semester, it is possible to start new with a rolling admissions school. If you are at a crossroads and not sure what the next steps are, rolling admissions schools have experience helping students find alternative paths to meet your goals.”

Before applying to rolling admissions schools, there are some things you need to know about the process. 


<span class="text-color-orange" role="decoration">Rolling admissions isn’t an application speed pass.</span>

While application requirements vary by school, the traditional criteria — application form, interview, essay, standardized test, recommendation letters — are still part of the process for most rolling admissions schools.

“Even though we use a rolling process, we still have an admissions committee that reviews each application, and all candidates are required to complete the same application steps,” said Rose Cooper, director of enrollment management at Our Lady of Mercy School for Young Women in Rochester, New York. 

“In some cases, families think that since we have a rolling process, they can speed through it quickly, or that decisions will be made on the same day that an application file is fully complete. It’s critical that families research a school’s decision timeline and application process — especially if it is late in the admissions cycle, there is a concern about enrollment availability, or it is close to the start of the school year.”


<span class="text-color-lightblue" role="decoration">Rolling admissions doesn’t guarantee openings.</span>

While rolling admissions schools may accommodate applicants who are late entries to the application process, it still behooves families to apply as soon as possible.

“The main tip I would give prospective families,” said Bridgette Rappoport, director of admission at Delphian School in Sheridan, Oregon, “is not to assume just because a school has rolling admission that they can wait to apply or that there will be space available.”

Cooper echoed the sentiment. “Families who apply later in the cycle often assume that because we use a rolling process (starting in fall and going through the summer), we will always have enrollment openings available. However, our enrollment for certain grades generally becomes very limited by May or June.”

It’s important to note that availability varies by grade, which can become tricky for families looking to place multiple kids. External factors such as the pandemic may also have a significant impact. In December, David Darby, assistant head: enrolment management at Lakefield College School in Lakefield, Ontario, reported that his school has “begun wait pools in two grades already.”


<span class="text-color-green" role="decoration">Rolling admissions schools may still have deadlines.</span>

“Rolling admissions is not a deadline-free process,” Cooper said. “We still have several key dates and deadlines to be aware of that students need to meet. For example, students wishing to apply for certain scholarships need to complete their admissions application by a specific deadline.”

Speaking of tuition assistance . . . 


<span class="text-color-orange" role="decoration">The early bird gets the financial aid.</span>

“Families applying for tuition assistance should not only apply early but are encouraged to submit their application for funding before awaiting an admissions decision,” Darby said.

Many schools with rolling admissions also conduct rolling financial aid decisions; it’s also common for rolling admissions schools to have set tuition assistance review periods. Either way, the pool of available funding has a limit, and the rolling admissions process is predisposed to first-come, first-served financial aid awards.  

“We always have a few families who are surprised that there isn't financial aid left in late summer,” Cooper said. “While we have a generous financial assistance budget, it isn't unlimited.”


<span class="text-color-lightblue" role="decoration">Mid-year transfers: What happens to grades and credits?</span>

“It is important to understand what your home school will do with transcript grades and credit if transferring over mid-semester or mid-year,” Hamer said. “Will they give students partial credit if it is a mid-semester transfer?

“On the flip side, it is imperative that parents consider the school being transferred to and how they will treat the transcript. Will they accept partial credit? Is the school willing to incorporate the partial grade into their final grade? Does the student have to start from the beginning of the term, or is there any flexibility in honoring what they have already accomplished at their home school? 

“Be sure to work with a school counselor at both schools so that a student is getting what they need, and to build their transcript in the best light for the future.”


<span class="text-color-green" role="decoration">Conclusion: Talk to the school as early as possible.</span>

With so many factors to consider on top of rolling admissions’ variable nature, families should engage with schools as early as possible.

“Creating that direct connection and relationship with the school will help them get a feel for the community, ensure they understand the application process and timeline, and generally is just a great way to continue to learn more,” said Jon Holmes, associate director of admissions at Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ontario. “Submitting an inquiry or application should be the first step, and then engage directly.”

A hand drawn cloud graphic.
Save 14 hours or more applying with the Standard Application Online.
Get Started!

Let’s get going!

A hand drawn graphic of two rabbits running.

Save time applying to private schools with the Standard Application Online. Apply to any of over 400 participating schools with one set of documentation and a single student essay.

The Official SSAT Practice

The path to bright SSAT results starts with studying. Only EMA's official Online Practice and Guide Books feature four full-length tests with 600 questions created by the same people who develop the SSAT. Compared to the competition, it's no competition—you get more and pay less with our official study guides!

Get started today with the free online Mini-Practice Test to identify focus areas.

A hand drawn graphic of a plant.

Find a school that’s unbe-leaf-able!

Whatever type of private school you're looking for, we've got it. Day schools. Boarding schools. Schools that dance. Schools that play. Schools that pray. Use our Private School Search to discover the schools that will help your child hone their strengths and discover hidden talents. Where will they blossom?

Admission Concierge at Your Service

Grow your understanding of the private school application process with Admission Concierge, a free newsletter delivering timely reminders and advice throughout the application process. It's everything you need to know—precisely when you need to know it.

Stand Out With the Snapshot

The Character Skills Snapshot is an innovative measure of student preferences, attitudes, and beliefs, helping schools get to know who an applicant is rather than just what they know from grades and standardized tests—letting their uniqueness shine. Add the Snapshot to your student's application today to help them stand out.