Which Online Colleges have High Acceptance Rates? Find Open Admission Schools with Distance Learning

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Some aspects of students’ academic history don’t accurately reflect their academic and professional ability. Does the fact that one student has an SAT or GPA in the top 25th percentile mean they’re 25 percent smarter or have a 25 percent better chance of succeeding than students not in that group? Of course not. But it can often feel as though both traditional and online colleges treat their applicants that way.

Many of today's online colleges with high acceptance rates understand there’s more to professional and personal success than grades or standardized test scores. They also recognize that many students face unique challenges that the "typical" college applicant might not encounter — a family setback or financial windfall that made the first crack at college unsuccessful. As a result, some colleges, especially those with online programs, have less stringent requirements for admission. Read on to learn which online colleges have high acceptance rates, how it works, and what it could mean for you.


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What Makes a College Easy to Get Into? Points to Consider

  • What are the acceptance rates?

    A school’s acceptance rate is the number of students accepted divided by the total number of applicants. For example, if 10,000 applicants apply to a college and that college sends out 1,000 acceptance letters, its acceptance rate would be 10 percent.

    A school with a lower acceptance rate means that all else being equal, it will be harder to get into than a school with a higher acceptance rate. However, a school with a low acceptance rate doesn’t necessary mean it’s a more prestigious school or that the quality of its education is better than a school with a higher acceptance rate.

  • What’s the difference in schools with high or low admittance rates?

    The answer depends on the school’s popularity and recruitment goals. Prestigious schools often have low acceptance rates, such 20 percent or less, because so many students (and parents) are enamored with graduating from these storied institutions. Conventional wisdom states that a school with a lower acceptance rate is “better” than a school with a higher acceptance rate. “Better” usually means more prestigious and a higher quality education, but this isn’t always the case.

    Occasionally, a school with an acceptance rate in the ballpark of Ivy League schools has a low acceptance rate because it receives an unusually large number of applications. Other times, a school chooses to accept fewer students than it’s capable of educating in an attempt to play the “numbers game” and increase its college ranking.

    And the opposite is also true. A school with a high acceptance rate doesn’t necessary mean it provides a low-quality education or its graduates have poor job prospects after graduation. Many schools gladly accept as many students as possible (or up to a certain point) in the hopes of giving as many students as possible the opportunity to earn a college degree and achieve their goals.

  • What is an open-door policy?

    This is a recruitment policy in which a college or university will accept any applicant who has the ability to pay tuition. One reasoning behind this policy is to provide everyone the opportunity to get a college education if they have the ability to pay for it.

  • What is open admission?

    An open admission policy (also called an open enrollment, open acceptance or automatic acceptance) means the college or university has a non-competitive admission process. In most schools with open admissions, the only admissions requirement is that the applicant earned a high school diploma or GED. However, many schools that are open admission will have a modified policy where an applicant is guaranteed admission if they meet certain basic minimum academic requirements.

  • Can a school have a 100 percent acceptance rate but not open admission?

    Yes, this is possible. Open admission means any applicant with a high school diploma or GED will be accepted. But just because a student is accepted doesn’t mean they can take any course or enter any program they would like.

    For example, some schools that accept every applicant may have the more popular courses fill up quickly, resulting in some students having to wait until a different semester to take a specific class. Also, some schools will accept every student into the school, but a specific program, such as nursing, may require students to meet specific GPA or standardized testing minimums.

What are the Benefits of Open Admission?

There are several benefits to open admission policies from the applicant’s perspective. Here are a few possible reasons to find a school with open admission:

Easy to apply

Applying to a college with an open admission policy is usually as simple as filling out an application and providing proof of a high school diploma or GED. Sometimes a minimum GPA or test score will be required to guarantee admission in an open admission institution. Compare this to the typical college application process – in addition to the above-mentioned items, most applications also require a high school transcript, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, interview and personal statement.

Cheaper to apply

Many schools who have open admission do not charge an application fee, or their application fees are lower than many other schools.

Cheaper to attend

Many open admission schools are community colleges. Compared to four-year colleges and universities, community colleges have a much lower tuition rate for students. Many schools offer online programs with open admissions as well. Going to school online is often cheaper than going to a traditional, on-campus school.

Guaranteed college opportunity

With an almost guaranteed acceptance, many students have the opportunity to obtain a college degree, even if they don’t have the best academic record or personal history. A low GPA or poor standardized test scores might otherwise prevent a student from attending college, despite the fact that they truly have what it takes to succeed. With open admission, anyone with the will to go to college will have the opportunity to get a college degree. Ironically, individuals with the greatest need for a college degree are those least able to get accepted to a college. Open admissions policies seek to address this problem.

Less stress

With an easier and less involved application process, students are under less pressure to get accepted or put forth the best college application possible. And once they enroll, the academic pressures to get the highest grades possible and surpass fellow classmates will be less. Students are still encouraged to get the highest grades possible, of course, but there is less of a “cutthroat” atmosphere among the students.

Stepping stone to a four-year college

Most community colleges have open admissions and serve as a transfer feeder school for nearby four-year colleges and universities. Many high school students who may not have the money or academic record to go straight to a nearby college after graduating high school can attend the local two-year community college for a lower tuition and obtain college credits. After two years, they can transfer to the four-year school, taking their credits with them.

More diverse student body

Since open admission colleges might accept students who don’t or can’t enroll in a traditional college, the student body tends to be more varied. It’s more likely to have students who are working, with children or come from more disadvantaged backgrounds.

Who Benefits from Online Universities and Schools Offering Open Acceptance?

  • Without a crystal ball, there’s no way for the college admissions officer to know for sure if a prospective student will succeed in college. In an attempt to make this prediction, an admissions officer will look at other factors, such as GPA, standardized test scores and history of extracurricular activities.

  • Just because an applicant didn’t earn a high GPA, get stellar test scores or serve as class president doesn’t mean they can’t do well in college. For example, statistics from College Board, the official entity of the SAT, have shown that students who come from wealthier families get higher SAT scores. But common sense tells us that how much money your family has shouldn’t dictate if you’re allowed to get a college degree. Therefore, the primary beneficiaries of attending colleges and universities that have open admissions are often disadvantaged students.

  • Whether the disadvantage is based on upbringing, financial ability or family responsibilities, there are a variety of reasons a student is capable of earning a college degree but doesn’t have the academic record to reflect this fact. Maybe a student didn’t have a great GPA because they had to help raise their younger siblings. Maybe a student became a single parent at a very early age and had to work a full-time job while trying to complete school. Perhaps a student didn’t have the benefit of parents who could afford to pay for SAT prep classes and private tutors. Whatever the reason, schools with open admission policies try to eliminate these differences in upbringing to provide an opportunity to all who desire a college education.

Find Online Schools with Open Admissions & 100 Percent Acceptance

It’s not always easy to find out which schools have open admission policies. To help, we’ve compiled a list of schools offering online learning opportunities, open admissions and 100 percent acceptance with graduation rates of at least 20 percent.

School Name 2014 6-Year Grad Rate Total Price State Size Sector

Admission Requirements for High Acceptance Schools

To attend an open admission school, a prospective student may still need to do certain things besides completing an application, including:

  • Provide proof they have a high school diploma or GED. An official high school transcript or official copy of GED test scores should work just fine.

  • Depending on the school, taking placement exams to measure the status of their current academic ability and knowledge. Schools require these exams to see if students need to first take remedial classes before they can take college level courses. Even though a student may have a high school diploma, it may have been several years or more since they last took algebra or wrote a paper.

  • Adherence to deadlines. Unless the specific school has rolling admissions, there will be a deadline by which a completed application must be submitted. Open admission schools will be very strict about enforcing these deadlines because of the often-high number of applicants who apply to their school.

  • If a student is not a US citizen, a school may require additional documentation to prove the student is a legal resident or student visitor in the country. To prove they possess a requisite level of English proficiency, they might have to take a special exam.

  • Once in school, the student may have to maintain a certain level of academic progress to take certain courses or enter specific programs.

Achieving Academic Success at an Open Admissions College

  • The thing that separates students near the top of their class and students near the bottom isn’t intelligence. Rather, it’s the ability to put forth the effort required to succeed. This includes a strong commitment that results in showing up to class on time, completing all assignments, and always being aware of what’s currently required.

  • If a student doesn’t succeed in college, it’s almost never about brainpower. Even in situations where a student is struggling in a class but doesn’t know what to do to improve, a devoted student will seek assistance from the school’s academic resources, fellow classmates or the professor.

  • Other students fail simply because they adopt a “who cares” mindset. Whether it’s too much partying to deciding to skip class or not turn in an assignment, many students indirectly choose not to reach their full college potential.

  • Some students don’t achieve their college goals due to outside forces they have little control over. Perhaps it’s a family emergency that takes a student’s time and attention away from studying. Maybe it’s an unexpected bill that forces the student to choose between paying rent or paying tuition. Or the student might be a single parent with child-raising responsibilities that prevent them from attending each class.

Where to Get Help to Succeed

Many schools have resources available to help students overcome these challenges. Mentoring or tutoring programs, developmental classes, professor office hours, career services and on-campus childcare are just a few things available to students to help them learn and succeed in college.

  • Developmental Classes

    Incoming students may be upset that they’re forced to take remedial classes in subjects and topics that don’t count toward their chosen area of study. However, taking these classes is almost always in the student’s best interest, as it reinforces the educational foundation the student already has and ensures they can understand what they will learn in college level courses.

  • Career Services

    Making the most of a school’s career services office is very important. Few schools will have a career services office that can singlehandedly find a job for a student, but they can dramatically improve the student’s chances of being successful job hunters. For example, they can help with improving resumes and interview techniques or put the student in touch with alumni in fields and companies that the student is interested in working in. Despite all this assistance, it still takes the student’s effort to meet with a career services advisor, to spend time polishing a resume or make that contact with an alumnus.

Are Open Admission Colleges Bad?

One of the perceived drawbacks of open admission colleges is that they allow students to enroll in college when they have no realistic chance of completing a college program. This is one reason why traditional colleges and universities have admission standards; they want to make students will be able to meet the academic requirements of that school.

When schools have admission, anyone can enroll – even students who aren’t ready for the rigors of college courses. While this has its drawbacks, remember that traditional academic standards for college acceptance often inadvertently stop students from attending a school where they might excel.

To avoid enrolling in college but being unable to meet the academic standards required, students need to understand what they’re getting into. Just because a school allows everyone to be accepted doesn’t mean everyone will be able to finish their chosen program. They still need to expect a great deal of hard work and put forth the effort to meet their course requirements.

Remember, just because a student has a GED or high school diploma does not mean they automatically have the academic training to succeed in college. Incoming students must understand that a sheet of paper or credential doesn’t help them get a college degree. Rather, it’s their hard work, dedication and ability to perform at the necessary academic level that will help them graduate from college.

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