As competition heats up, more colleges offer conditional admissions
- More colleges are admitting freshmen on a conditional basis, requiring them to complete their first year elsewhere before returning to campus as a sophomore, according to The Hechinger Report.
- Until recently, the policy had been used infrequently and primarily to help students bolster lacking skills, such as English language proficiency. Increasingly, however, it is being used to help colleges maintain favorable admissions data, curating a ready pool of eligible sophomores that have proven they can handle college. Average freshman scores and grades are often viewed as an indication of selectivity.
- Students are often surprised to learn they have been admitted on a conditional basis as many are unaware of the option.
Conditional admission programs vary in type and scope. The decision is typically based on an individual students' needs. For example, English language learners struggling to pass the TOEFL test may be offered admission on the condition they participate in an extensive language program on campus, U.S. News & World Report explains. Graduate students lacking prerequisites, meanwhile, might be admitted so long as they promise to complete those classes.
Such admissions policies have long helped international and low-income students gain a foothold on campus, Voice of America reports. For international students, they can help prevent poor English language skills from overshadowing their other academic abilities, and are a marketable feature for schools seeking to develop a global campus community. Low-income students, colleges say, can build study and critical thinking skills their high schools may not have rigorously enforced.
Both U.S. News and Voice of America note that such programs often saddle students with additional fees and time away from family.
As colleges increase their use of conditional admissions, their rationale is becoming less specific. Highly competitive institutions often use it to admit high-performing students who were on the cusp of qualification, The Hechinger Report explains, helping them offset attrition among first years by queuing up a fresh infusion of sophomores.
In 2015, a proposal by North Carolina House legislators to require certain students to complete an associate degree before enrolling at the University of North Carolina drew concern from college leaders. Students often rise to the challenge once faced with the rigors of college, they argued, and data suggest that students who transfer into a four-year college in the system from a community college complete bachelor's degrees within six years at about the same rate as students who started at a four-year institution.
- The Hechinger Report Seeking advantage, colleges are increasingly admitting students as sophomores