What Does Open Admission Mean?

man people woman desk
Gelyna Price
Gelyna Price

Our collaborative team of content writers and researchers stay up-to-date on the latest news to help you ace your applications. We hope you enjoy the blog.

By this point, you’re probably very familiar with the standard college admissions procedure. What you may not know is that this isn’t the only system. “Open admission” or “open enrollment” is another approach to college admissions, but one you don’t hear as much about. In this article, we’ll take a deeper dive into what, exactly open admission is (and isn’t).

If you’ve done a little research, you probably know what early and regular admission mean. You’re doubtless well-aware that different colleges have (sometimes dramatically) different acceptance rates. And, as many college hopefuls know, prestigious schools like Harvard, Stanford, and MIT are notorious for their acceptance rates of under 10%.

So what does “open admission” mean, and how can you use this option to your best advantage?

What Is Open Admission?

Generally, these colleges don’t require anything beyond a GED or high school diploma for admission. That’s right — you don’t need to take the SAT or ACT, craft compelling essays, or take a long list of AP or Honors classes to get in.

In other words, open admission colleges typically take anyone who applies, assuming you meet the minimum requirement of having completed high school (or the equivalent). The acceptance rate is typically 100%. The exception to this is when one of these colleges receives more applications than it has spaces available, in which case some students will most likely be waitlisted.

What to Know About Schools with Open Admission

Schools with open admission tend not to be as prestigious or rigorous as those with competitive admissions processes, as you would expect. However, depending on your circumstances and what exactly you want to get out of college, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many students thrive and blossom in academic environments with less stress and pressure. And it’s important to note that this is a generalization; there are quite a few open admissions colleges that do emphasize great academics.

If your test scores or high school grades weren’t outstanding enough to contend in today’s ultra-competitive college admissions process — or if you weren’t able to complete high school — open admissions schools offer a way to go to college anyway.

What Isn’t Open Admission?

Open admission isn’t an indication that “anything goes.” Once you begin attending one of these colleges, you’ll generally be expected to maintain satisfactory academic progress and grades, just as you would at a school with regular admissions.

Open admission also isn’t an excuse to ignore application deadlines. While these deadlines may be later than those at other schools (or the school might use a rolling admission policy), there typically are still deadlines. Don’t wait until a few weeks before classes start to begin the application process.

What to Keep in Mind About an Open Admission College

When you choose to attend an open admission college, you’ll likely need to take several placement tests. These don’t determine whether you get into the school, but rather the level of the classes you’ll start with.

In addition, remember that some open admissions colleges cater to a specific subset of students. This may take the form of the college’s rules, or through student self-selection. Wabash College, for example, is male-only. 90% of the students at Boricua College identify as Latino. Southern Nazarene University provides a Christian education. In other words, just as with regular admissions colleges, each school offers its own flavor and characteristics. 

Questions? Let us know!