What Does Open Admission Mean?

man people woman desk

By this point, you’re probably all too familiar with the standard college admissions procedure. You’re also doubtless well aware that different colleges have (sometimes dramatically) different acceptance rates, with prestigious schools like Harvard, Stanford, and MIT being notorious for their acceptance rates of under 10%.

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, this is (and isn’t).

What Is Open Admission?

Generally, open admission 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.

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.

Some open admissions colleges cater to a specific subset of students, either by 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!