What Does College “Open Admission” Mean?

College admission is a major concern for many high school students and their parents.  The entire admission process may feel overwhelming, time consuming, and expensive.  As part of the exploration process, you may come across schools that list their admission policy as ”Open Admission,” ”Open Enrollment,” or ”Inclusive Admission.”  What exactly does this mean?

Open Admission generally means that the admission process is unselective and non-competitive; the only criteria for admission is that the student have a high school diploma or GED certificate.  Most colleges with Open Admission are community colleges or colleges which grant Associate degrees.  There are a few, but not many, four year colleges with this type of admission policy.

Open Enrollment or Open Admission policies were instituted during the 1960’s and 1970’s to reduce barriers to higher education for some groups of students, including those from lower income or underprivileged backgrounds.  The policy of increasing accessibility was intended to provide a college education to all who desire it.  It allows students with a wide range of potential to attend college.

Open Enrollment or Open Admission should not be confused with an Open Door policy, which generally allows admission to anyone who can pay tuition, regardless of educational background.

There are some advantages to considering admission at an Open Enrollment school.

  • For some students who had difficulty in high school and do not have the grades appropriate for a more selective admission, an Open Enrollment institution is an opportunity to prove that they can successfully undertake college level work.
  • Some students who need relief from the pressure of the admissions process may find that there is less of a psychological barrier to this type of admission.
  • Other students benefit from the streamlined admission process that may be faster and less expensive. 
  • Some students who attend an Open Admission college may also be pleased to find that they are exposed to a wider range of students than those who attend a college with a narrower academic niche.

Students who hope to attend an Open Enrollment institution should know that they will still need to apply to the college.  It is possible that there may be more applicants than spots available, so some students may be waitlisted.  For this reason, it is important that students pay attention to all deadlines and application requirements.

Although these schools do not require SAT or ACT test scores, students should expect to take several placement tests upon admission to test their competency.  These will be used to determine whether students will be required to take remedial  or developmental coursework before being allowed to take college level courses.  Admission to the college does not guarantee admission to all programs or courses, as some programs may be highly selective.  Once admitted, students will need to maintain satisfactory academic progress and adhere to required standards to remain in good standing.

Open Enrollment or Open Admission colleges may provide an excellent situation for some students — either directly out of high school or after a poor experience at another institution.  However, although there are no academic standards for admission other than a high school education, students should realize that admissions deadlines and academic standards still apply.  If your student is considering an Open Enrollment school, encourage her to contact the college for more information about the process of applying.

Related Posts:

The Problem with College Placement Exams

What is a College Articulation Agreement?

It’s Not Too Late for Your Student to Apply to College

Parenting Your College Transfer Student: Navigating the Transfer Process


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