Finding Online Colleges with Open Enrollment and Admissions

Open enrollment colleges offer many benefits to future college students. Here, we outline top benefits and what to consider before enrolling.

March 22, 2022 • 5 Min Read

edited by Veronica Freeman

Colleges with open enrollment accept learners who meet minimal admission requirements, such as proof of high school graduation. International applicants may need to demonstrate English proficiency by passing an exam. Open enrollment in college features many benefits. Learners with limited budgets or those who did not get into other schools may choose colleges with open admissions.

This page answers common questions about colleges with open enrollment. Read on to learn how the process works and what to do before enrolling. Please use this information to research schools' websites and create questions for admissions advisors.

Frequently Asked Questions About Open Enrollment

Does Open Enrollment Mean For-profit?

Open enrollment does not indicate a school's for-profit status. Many nonprofit public schools use open enrollment to increase enrollment. When considering for-profit schools, research their reputation before applying. Some for-profits offer poor educational experiences. Many of these schools' graduates also default on student loans.

Are Open-Enrollment Colleges Easier Than Colleges With More Rigorous Admissions Policies?

Open enrollment does not suggest a college offers easier courses than other schools. Quality U.S. colleges and universities hold accreditation from one of six regional accreditation agencies. Schools with regional accreditation offer programs meeting U.S. Department of Education standards. Please avoid colleges lacking this important accreditation.

Are Students at Open-Enrollment Schools Ready for College-level Classes?

The answer depends on students' educational backgrounds. Colleges with open admissions attract more learners without enough college preparation. However, top schools help these students with free or affordable bridge courses. These courses award college credit and cover topics such as math, grammar, and paragraph development.

Can I Get Financial Aid at Open-Admissions Colleges?

Learners attending regionally accredited schools may qualify for federal grants and loans. Students should complete the FAFSA annually to determine their eligibility. The FAFSA compares applicants' income to schools' attendance costs. Some colleges and private scholarships use FAFSA results to award aid.

Do Four-year Universities Offer Open Enrollment?

Most colleges with open enrollment offer only associate degrees and two-year certificates. However, some graduates use their degree or certificate to transfer to a bachelor's program. Learners work with academic advisors to develop transfer plans. Doing so ensures most if not all credits transfer.

I Want To Start College Immediately. Is This Possible at Open-Admissions Schools?

The answer depends on the school. Some online colleges with open enrollment allow new learners to begin asynchronous courses immediately. Other schools start new courses in the spring, summer, and fall semesters. Prospective students can learn more by checking a college's academic calendar or speaking with enrollment advisors.

Are Tuition Rates Different for Open-Enrollment Schools?

Public open-enrollment schools offer in-state students the most affordable tuition. College applicants on a budget should explore these colleges first. Learners attending for-profit colleges with open enrollment may pay double for their education. Higher tuition at for-profit colleges causes many learners to take out loans or apply for other financial aid.

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How Open Enrollment Works

Colleges with open enrollment simplify the college admissions process. Applicants create an online account. They then input personal information and a list of high schools or colleges attended. Applicants submit unofficial high school or undergraduate transcripts. Those who passed the GED or HiSET provide these scores instead. Some schools require a valid U.S. government ID.

Some colleges' application processes take less than one hour. However, prospective students should review admissions steps closely before starting. As with traditional college admissions, enrollment advisors help applicants complete forms and submit required documents. These advisors assist through online chat systems.

Some colleges with open enrollment offer online and in-person programs. They include the University of the People, South Texas College, and Sinclair College. Other schools restrict open enrollment to non-degree-seeking applicants. These applicants include those earning a certificate or taking personal enrichment courses.

New associate degree-seekers take English and math placement tests. Results reveal whether they need remedial coursework before starting a degree. Some schools use ACT and SAT scores to place learners.

Colleges with open enrollment use shorter application forms than traditional schools. These forms do not include sections about extracurricular activities or recommendation letters.

Many colleges with open admissions do not charge application fees. They avoid these fees to increase the number of applicants. Some schools charging this fee waive it for prospective students with financial need.

Proof of high school graduation includes unofficial or official transcripts. Students who passed the GED or HiSET submit scores to their school's admissions office.

International applicants who learned English as a second language take the Test of English as a Foreign Language. Results demonstrate English proficiency. Schools may also accept the International English Language Test.

Why Open Enrollment May Be Right for You

Colleges with open enrollment offer many advantages, including affordable tuition and easy applications. Schools may offer other benefits than those listed below.

Public colleges with open admissions include junior and community colleges. These schools charge residents much lower tuition than public or private four-year schools. Students can use the money they save for a bachelor's-completion program or another expense. These schools may also award need- and merit-based financial aid.

Open admissions in college means applicants experience a smoother enrollment process. Prospective students do not need to worry about deadlines, standardized test scores, or recommendation letters. They also do not wait months for a decision. Open enrollment means everyone meeting a school's minimum requirements qualifies for admission.

Open admissions in college levels the academic playing field. Students do not feel judged because they did not graduate high school or earned poor grades. The same benefit applies to nontraditional learners, such as those returning to school after raising children. Degree- and certificate-seekers learn alongside others with similar life and academic experiences.

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Before Enrolling

Although open enrollment offers many advantages, prospective students should still research schools' credibility and transfer policies. This can help them choose a school that meets their academic needs.

Prospective learners should research colleges before applying. They should also check accreditation status, student support services, and available degrees and certificates. In addition, learners should consider professors' qualifications and attendance cost. Applicants needing financial aid should determine whether a school awards institutional scholarships and grants.

Many associate degree-seekers plan to transfer to bachelor's-completion programs. Credit transfers easily when both schools hold regional accreditation. Public colleges with open enrollment coordinate with in-state four-year schools to ensure credit transfers successfully. Schools do so by agreeing on course equivalencies.

Community colleges provide many benefits, including affordable tuition, highly trained instructors, and the ability to transfer to four-year schools. Other advantages may include online programs and small class sizes. The latter ensures enrollees receive personalized attention. These schools also feature extracurricular activities, such as sports and clubs.

Other Types of Admissions Policies

Prospective students should explore schools with other types of admissions policies. These colleges and universities may offer better educational experiences.

Colleges with rolling admissions accept applications throughout the year and review them quickly. Applicants may receive an admissions decision within 1-2 weeks. Some schools with rolling admissions allow new students to start classes as soon as possible. Others limit enrollment to 1-2 times annually.

Rolling admissions' advantages include receiving a nonbinding decision. Potential disadvantages include applying too late. Schools with rolling admissions close the admissions window if they receive too many applications.

EA appeals to applicants with a top-choice college or university. Applicants apply EA months earlier than traditional regular-decision deadlines. Prospective students apply to regular-decision schools while waiting for an EA decision.

Applicants applying EA should expect an admissions decision in January or February. Applicants may turn down EA offers. Those accepting it must do so by May 1.

ED differs from EA in many ways. Applicants apply to only one college ED. They receive an admissions decision in December. Although a binding decision, prospective students may turn it down if the offered financial aid package does not meet their needs.

Prospective students applying ED may apply to other schools through regular decision. Applicants accepting an ED offer must withdraw regular-decision applications immediately. The same rule applies to applicants accepting an EA offer.

Some colleges offer single-choice EA. Schools may refer to this policy as restrictive EA. Single-choice EA/restrictive EA applicants apply only to one school EA. However, a school's acceptance remains nonbinding, offering flexibility.

Single-choice EA/restrictive EA appeals to prospective students whose academic plans or financial situation may change. Other factors to consider include whether applicants meet or exceed the school's admissions profile. Applicants without a first-choice school should avoid single-choice EA/restrictive EA.

Many colleges and universities use an open-door policy for some academic programs, including degrees. Prospective students do not complete an admissions process. Programs accept learners without a high school or GED diploma.

Colleges with an open-door policy attract students wanting personal enrichment or professional training. Other learners enroll to explore new careers. These programs' other benefits include preparing for the next college admissions cycle.

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