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5 Frequently Asked Questions About Rolling Admissions

Posted by Cornell MPA Program Admissions Team on 10/13/21 7:34 AM

Applying to graduate programs can be overwhelming and stressful, especially when you have lots of questions related to choosing a program, financial aid options, and application requirements. Perhaps during your graduate school decision journey, you've encountered several programs that offer something called rolling admissions. By understanding what rolling admissions really is and by making a strategic action plan, you can use rolling admissions to your advantage.

At the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, we are proud to offer rolling admissions. To understand the rolling admissions option and to help you get started on putting your best application forward, we have answered five of the questions we get asked most often.

Interested in joining Cornell University's MPA program? We invite you to   schedule a visit to the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs!

1. Rolling admissions definition — How does rolling admissions work?

Instead of having a set deadline, graduate schools with rolling admissions offer a larger window for prospective students to submit their applications. Although some schools with rolling admissions do not have a cutoff date, some schools have a priority application deadline. Further, with rolling admissions, a graduate school evaluates applications as they are received and will stop accepting applications when the final spot in their incoming class is filled.

In Cornell's MPA program specifically, we receive some of our most ambitious, forward-thinking applicants towards the end of our rolling admissions deadline. Often, qualified applicants will apply to Cornell's MPA program last minute because of a professional or personal change, which frees them up to apply for admission to this Ivy League MPA program. For that reason, we are dedicated to offering rolling admissions! Request more information today to learn about how we can best accommodate you.

2. What are some advantages to rolling admissions?

Among other advantages, rolling admissions offers students greater flexibility and control when applying to graduate degree programs. Here are four advantages to submitting your application to a program with a rolling deadline:

  1. There is less stress and pressure because you don’t have to turn in an application by a certain date.
  2. You can expect a quick response from the school.
  3. If you turn your application in early, there may be less competition for spots in the program.
  4. Flexibility — you will have more time to consider all your offers before you need to respond.

3. When is the best time to apply to a school with rolling admissions?

Even if a graduate school offers rolling admissions, it is best to apply as early as possible, but it's also important to remember that you will have more time to make your decision to apply.

Programs with traditional hard-deadlines wait until the application deadline has passed, before comparing all prospective students to one another and then offering spots to the top performers. As schools with rolling admissions receive qualified applications, they begin to fill the openings in the class. Students do not need to compete with the entire group for a spot in the program but are measured against a rubric and accepted if there is an opening in the program.

4. Do rolling admissions affect financial aid?

This all depends on the graduate programs' financial support. Frequently, schools with rolling admissions will distribute funding on a first-come-first-served basis. If you are unsure how your school distributes available aid, check their admissions website or contact the admissions office.

Also, because Cornell is the only Ivy League school with land-grant status, Cornell’s MPA program is more affordable than some other schools offering the same degree, including Columbia, New York University, and Georgetown. Combined tuition, fees, and overall living expenses for CIPA's two-year MPA range from $20,000 to $40,000 less than our competitors.

Comparing Cornell MPA affordable costs to other Ivy League Schools

Note: If you want to learn more about how you can fund your MPA at Cornell, check out this blog post!  

5. Once I receive a response, when should I let the program know of my decision?

With rolling admissions, applicants can typically expect to hear back within 4-6 weeks, sometimes even sooner. However, the response times can vary greatly depending on how many applications the school is processing at that time, so apply early if you’re looking to hear back early!

As for notifying a school of your decision once you are granted admission, as a general rule, it is polite to respond as soon as you are able. Whether you choose to accept or decline the offer, this will let the school know if they are able to offer space to another applicant.

Some schools have a response deadline or date by which you need to notify the program of your decision, they will include this in their acceptance letter. Other programs do not set a deadline. If you are not given a clear response deadline, feel free to reach out to the admissions office and ask.

Are you ready to take on the world's most pressing policy issues?

Getting an Master of Public Administration (MPA) is a great step in your pursuit to make a meaningful, tangible difference in the world around you by improving the lives of those you serve through your career in public affairs. If you are ready to jumpstart your career in the field of public policy/public affairs, and if you’ve decided that you belong in a mission-driven graduate program like a Master of Public Administration degree — apply today!

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