Every year, many international students receive conditional admission to colleges and universities across the U.S. But what is conditional admission exactly? And how can it benefit you?
In this article, we explain how the conditional admission process works for international students. We also give you a lengthy list of U.S. schools offering conditional acceptance as well as a few key tips on when to consider accepting or rejecting a conditional admission offer.
What Is Conditional Admission? Is It Bad?
Conditional admission, also called "provisional admission" or "conditional acceptance," means that you will be admitted to a college or university on the condition that you make up for a certain requirement you do not presently meet.
For international students, conditional admission means you'll be admitted to a school if and only if you successfully complete further English-language training. Conditional admission is generally offered to academically qualified international applicants whose English abilities are lower than what's required by their schools for regular, or unconditional, admission.
Once you fulfill all of your school's English-language requirements, you will become an unconditional student and be able to take regular academic courses for your degree. If, however, you fail to meet your school's requirements, you will either be rejected or un-enrolled from classes, depending on when you must complete your English-language training.
So is conditional admission a good thing or a bad thing? The reality is, it depends on how you choose to look at it.
On the one hand, conditional admission proves that you're 100 percent academically qualified for a school you want to attend. On the other hand, conditional admission can be frustrating because it means that your English ability is the only factor preventing you from being regularly admitted to a school.
Furthermore, conditional admission can be burdensome, as you'll likely need to complete an intensive English-language program before you can even begin enrolling in classes that count toward your degree.
How Does Conditional Admission Work?
Like the college application process, the process of applying for and receiving conditional admission varies depending on the school. Thus, it's best to consult schools directly to get more information about their admission processes and whether they offer conditional admission to students.
Below, we give you an overview of the typical conditional admission process at U.S. schools.
Step 1: Apply to your chosen schools. At some U.S. schools, you may have the option to directly apply for conditional admission by simply selecting or noting it on your application. At other schools, such as the University of Minnesota, you may be automatically considered for conditional admission based on your overall application and TOEFL or IELTS scores. (Note that not all schools require TOEFL or IELTS scores for conditional admission consideration.)
Step 2: Receive conditional acceptance. If you've been successfully admitted to your school as a provisional student, you will receive an acceptance letter indicating your conditional acceptance. At this time or shortly after, your school will explain to you in detail what you must do to satisfy its English-language requirement and eventually become a fully (instead of conditionally) admitted student.
Step 3: Fulfill your school's English-language requirement. To successfully fulfill your school's English requirement and transition from a conditional student to a regular student, you will most likely need to do one or more of the following:
- Complete an intensive English-language program
- Attain certain grades (usually B or higher) in English-language courses
- Achieve a certain qualifying score set by your school on the TOEFL, IELTS, or other English-proficiency test
Most often, conditionally admitted students will enroll in school-approved intensive English-language programs on or off campus to make up for their English deficiencies. These programs usually need to be completed before you can enroll in regular academic courses, but some schools may allow you to take regular classes and English courses simultaneously.
Step 4: Transition from conditional acceptance to full acceptance. Once you've met your school's English-language requirement, you will become a regular, unconditionally accepted student. This means that you will no longer need to take English-language courses, allowing you to instead focus entirely on your selected degree program. (If you fail to meet your school's English requirement, however, you will not be admitted unconditionally.)
Which Schools Offer Conditional Admission?
By now, you're probably wondering which schools actually offer conditional admission. And the answer is, a lot of different kinds! From small community colleges to large public institutions, schools offering conditional acceptance can be found all over the U.S.
Below is a list of 82 U.S. schools offering conditional admission to international students. All schools are arranged in alphabetical order, and each entry includes the academic level(s) offering conditional admission as well as the English-language requirements for ultimately securing full admission.
Note that this list is by no means a complete list of U.S. schools offering conditional admission. If there is a school you want to apply to that is not on this list, I recommend contacting it directly to ask whether conditional admission is available for international students.
Should You Accept Conditional Admission?
Now, we get to our final question: if you are offered conditional admission, should you accept it? Your answer to this question will depend on what you hope to get out of your particular school. Here, we present to you a few situations in which you may want to consider accepting conditional admission and in which you may be better off rejecting it.
Consider Accepting Conditional Admission If …
- You want to improve your English in an English-speaking country. Are you excited about the prospect of learning English in an English-speaking country? Then conditional admission will likely be an excellent fit for you, especially if you're genuinely enthusiastic about getting to hone your English skills in an intensive English-language program.
- It's your dream school. If you've received conditional admission from your dream school, you should definitely consider accepting the offer! Ultimately, as long as you're committed to working hard on your English skills and fulfilling your school's English requirements, you shouldn't have any problem transitioning from conditional student to unconditional student. Plus, if your dream school is particularly selective, this might be your only shot at attending it!
Consider Rejecting Conditional Admission If …
- You'd rather improve your English skills on your own time. If you're not interested in enrolling in an intensive English-language program or paying extra money for English courses, you'll probably be better off rejecting the conditional acceptance offer and taking time to improve your English abilities on your own. The following year, you can then reapply to your school with a (hopefully) higher set of TOEFL or IELTS scores and receive a regular acceptance offer.
- You have an unconditional acceptance elsewhere. If you've already received a full acceptance to a different school that you like just as much as the one to which you've been conditionally admitted, consider rejecting your conditional offer, particularly if you'd prefer to attend a full academic program right away (instead of having to take English courses first).
Summary: What Is Conditional Admission? What Does It Mean for You?
For international students, conditional admission — also known as "provisional admission" or "conditional acceptance" — means that you have been accepted to a school on the condition that you raise your English level through approved English-language training.
Many schools across the U.S., from community colleges to public universities, offer conditional admission to undergraduate and graduate students. Above, we've provided you with a list of 82 schools offering conditional admission to international students. If you're not sure whether a school offers conditional admission, contact the school to ask about its admission policies.
Whether you should accept or reject a conditional admission offer ultimately depends on what you want to do with your academic plan. If you are OK with having to take English courses or really want to attend a particular school, it might be best to accept your conditional admission offer. On the other hand, if you're uninterested in taking English courses or have received an unconditional offer from an equally good school, you might want to consider rejecting your conditional acceptance offer.
Not sure whether your TOEFL score is high enough for regular admission? Check out our extensive list of popular U.S. schools and their minimum TOEFL requirements.
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Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.