How Do Online College Acceptance Rates Differ From Traditional Campus Acceptance Rates

Colleges With High Acceptance Rates

What do acceptance rates mean? The college’s acceptance rate is the percent of student allowed into the school based on the number applying. In short, it is the percentage of applicants admitted. College acceptance rates are varied. Education statistics can be important to prospective students. One of the education statistics to be aware of are different colleges acceptance rates. Whether your preferred school has a high or low acceptance rate, waiting to be accepted into a school or university is one of the most mind-burdening events to go through. However, there are a variety of both online and traditional colleges and universities that report extremely high acceptance rates. Historically, traditional brick-and-mortar universities have lower acceptance rates than online colleges and universities. However, as more and more traditional schools compete with online colleges, acceptance rates have gone up over the years. Is there a standard acceptance rate? The answer is no. There are 100 percent acceptance rate colleges. There are other colleges with a very low acceptance rate. Here is a quick glance at the acceptance rate differences between online schools and traditional colleges and universities.

Traditional Colleges and Universities

Many traditional colleges and universities typically have lower acceptance rates than online schools and universities. This is typically the case with very large prestigious universities that receive tens of thousands of applications each year from prospective students. These universities and colleges have very limited space and only select the cream of the crop. Many of these traditional brick-and-mortar universities use test scores, grades, letters of recommendations and volunteer experience as determinants of admissions into a college or university. If you want to attend a traditional college or university, the best thing to do would be research the acceptance rates year by year. What you may find interesting is that some years these colleges have higher acceptance rates than other. What plays a big factor in this is popularity of a school, changes in standardized tests and graduation rates.

The nation’s most prestigious traditional colleges and universities often have acceptance rates that hover between four and five percent, which means they may only accept a few hundred applicants each year. According to U.S. News & World Report, schools like Harvard University, Stanford University, and Columbia University only accept four to five percent of applicants.

On the other hand, there are many schools around the country that have an acceptance rate of 100 percent and are traditional or brick & mortar institutions. Some schools that accept all qualified applicants include Bismarck State College in North Dakota, Granite State College in New Hampshire, and the City University of Seattle in Washington State.

There are also many colleges that are lightly selective. For example, Missouri Western State University has an acceptance rate of 74%. That is somewhat selective, but 74% is still a pretty good chance of being accepted. Bethel University Saint Paul has an acceptance rate of 87%. That is a pretty high acceptance rate. Therefore, Missouri Western State University is a less selective school than Bethel University Saint Paul.

The great variety in acceptance rates of brick and mortar universities is similar to the varying acceptance rates of online schools. Some online colleges ask only that their applicants successfully submit all required application materials for full acceptance. Other online colleges have requirements like personal essays and standardized test score requirements that must be met in order to be considered for acceptance.

Online Colleges and Universities

How Do Online College Acceptance Rates Differ From Traditional Campus Acceptance Rates?

Online schools, on the other hand, typically have higher acceptance rates than traditional brick-and-mortar colleges and universities. This is usually because online schools mainly cater to working adult professionals who want to go back to school to obtain a bachelors, masters or doctoral degree. There are online colleges with 100 acceptance rate. There are many easy online colleges to get into. Many of these online schools realize that adult students have a variety of commitments and demands such as a job and family and do not have the time to go through a lengthy application process to get accepted into a program. Online schools typically do not want to scare away students from applying, thus they are likely to have lower admissions requirements compared to traditional brick-and-mortar universities.

Things get even more complicated when you consider the difference between acceptance rates for traditional enrollment versus online enrollment at colleges that operate both online and with traditional classrooms. For example, further data compiled by U.S. News & World Report suggests that Temple University accepts more than 74 percent of applicants for its online bachelor’s programs but only accepts around 56 percent of applicants for its on-campus programs.

Conversely, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University accepts around 65 percent of its online bachelor’s degree program applicants but accepts more than 68 percent of its on-campus applications. For Western Kentucky University, more than 73 percent of applicants are accepted to its online programs, but more than 92 percent are accepted to the traditional program for first-time freshmen.

If you’re not sure whether your grades will allow you to gain acceptance into your chosen school, even if it has a generous admissions policy, you may want to contact the school directly to ask for details about the average student accepted to that institution. You can see if your GPA is similar to other students who have been admitted or whether you might need to take an extra math class or science class to ensure your application is accepted. There are many colleges in Florida with high acceptance rates.

Do Colleges with Higher Acceptance Rates Have Good Reputations?

How Do Online College Acceptance Rates Differ From Traditional Campus Acceptance Rates?

Is a high acceptance rate good? Some people might venture to say that colleges and universities that have higher acceptance rates are not as good as competitive colleges and universities. While you obviously cannot compare a degree from Harvard with a degree from a small online college, the reality is that at the end of the day, an education is an education. How many students are allowed into a school does not necessarily determine how good or bad a school will be for prospective students. Many schools that have higher acceptance rates still offer the same quality of education just like any other school. There are many good colleges with high acceptance rates. It is just imperative that students do their research and determine whether or not that school offers the degree program of their interest. Also, it is important to keep in mind that just because a school has a high acceptance rate does not guarantee that they will have a high graduation rate as well. Those with the highest acceptance rate may or may not be a good fit for you. You should look to see what a school’s admission to graduation ratio is. If a school has a high enrollment rate but a high dropout rate, chances are the school is not reputable and is most likely a diploma mill. It is important to look at other factors that just which college or university has the highest acceptance rates.

While researching the quality of programs offered at online universities, it’s important to conduct the same due-diligence that one might for an on-campus program. One of the most important features of a quality online degree program is whether the overall school is accredited by one of the nation’s regional accreditation agencies and whether the program itself is further approved by an industry-specific organization.

Online schools will often have a physical presence somewhere in the United States and will be accredited by an agency in their region. Accreditation organizations include the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Higher Learning Commission, and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Each of these commissions is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the country’s Department of Education.

Regional accreditation applies to the overall school, but there are also organizations that examine and accredit single subjects or programs at online universities. For example, an online degree in computer science might be accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. A degree in economics might be accredited by the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs.

Open Admissions Policies Versus High Acceptance Rates

One factor to remember when examining colleges with high acceptance rates is that an open admissions policy isn’t the same as a high acceptance rate. Some colleges will admit everyone who applies as long as they meet certain minimum application standards. These colleges have open admissions policies. Other high acceptance rate colleges have rates of 80 percent or 90 percent and accept almost everyone except for some applicants who don’t meet grade thresholds or other application requirements.

Applying to an online school that has an open admissions policy doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re applying to a school that admits anyone who can fill out a simple form and submit it online. The open admissions process will usually have several basic requirements that, when met, guarantee acceptance. Those requirements may include having a high school diploma for bachelor’s applicants or having a bachelor’s degree for graduate degree applicants.

Open Admissions Means Maintaining Good Grades

How Do Online College Acceptance Rates Differ From Traditional Campus Acceptance Rates?

Applying to online colleges with a high acceptance rate does not mean you can goof off and fail the classes that don’t interest you. Just like colleges with selective acceptance rates and difficult application standards, online schools and those with high acceptance rates still require accepted students to maintain certain grades. If you fail a class, you may be put on academic probation until you’ve taken the class a second time and passed it.

Further, if you don’t pass all of your classes from your online school, you might not qualify for professional exams that are required after you graduate. For example, you’ll have difficulty qualifying to sit for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam if you do not have passing grades for all of your required accounting class credits.

There are other requirements that may come into play with enrollment in online universities that are similar to the requirements of brick and mortar schools. For example, the online college might have a limit on the total number of years you can take to finish your degree. If you can’t complete your bachelor’s within six years, you might have to apply a second time to the college.

Application Items to Expect for Colleges with High Acceptance Rates

All colleges require that students fill out a general application form with personal details that include name, address, and identifying information like social security numbers. Some colleges with open admissions policies may require nothing more than an initial application and a record of having earned a high school diploma. The school may not have GPA requirements or any standardized test requirements.

One of the popular application materials required at schools that accept life experience for credits is a resume. The school may also need a recommendation from a previous or current boss or coworker, as well as other evidence of work experience. If you’re looking to apply to a school that accepts work experiences for credit, you may even find that you can apply for tuition reimbursement or assistance from your employer when you apply to enroll at certain online colleges.

Some of the popular online universities and colleges that require very few application materials include Liberty University, National University, Granite State College, and Florida National University. There are many high acceptance rate colleges in Florida. Further, some online schools also allow students to apply with no application fee. Some of those colleges include:

  • Johnson & Wales University
  • the University of Dayton
  • Saint Louis University
  • Limestone College

Alternatives to Traditional College Application Materials

One of the helpful features of some online schools is the opportunity to submit evidence of life or work experiences in lieu of traditional school records. Online colleges with a high acceptance rate often allow students to submit a transcript from their military service or a resume from their years spent working. The benefit of these submissions is that it may result in the student being required to take fewer credits than if he or she had no work or life experience.

Some schools around the country that offer credit for work experience. The list includes:

  • Southern New Hampshire University
  • Walden College
  • The University of Memphis Global Campus
  • Eastern Kentucky University

A few of those schools, as well as others that offer credit for work or life experience, have brick and mortar presences, but others are solely online.

For example, Southern New Hampshire University has a small campus in that state, but many students attend online and can use life experience for credits. Universities with a “global campus” like Central Michigan University and Colorado State University have all of their applicants attend online classes even if they have a separate division that operates a campus.

Coronavirus Impacts on Colleges with a High Acceptance Rate

One of the surprising effects of the COVID-19 virus pandemic of 2020 is the fact that reduced enrollment levels have led to an increase in acceptance rates for many of the nation’s schools. According to an article from CNBC, many of the colleges and universities around the nation have experienced significantly lower enrollment in 2020 than in 2019. Some students have chosen to skip a semester during the worst of the pandemic, and some international students have been unable to enroll in classes because of restrictions on entry into the country.

Details from the CNBC article suggested that six in 10 of the admissions officers interviewed were very concerned about meeting their enrollment goals. The article went on to suggest that students interested in transferring to schools with prestigious reputations could see an easier time gaining acceptance due to relaxed application requirements and the need for school administrators to increase enrollment levels.

However, the pandemic’s impact on education probably won’t mean that highly selective schools like Harvard and Yale will suddenly turn into colleges with high acceptance rates. If anything, some colleges may begin to offer more online classes, which is good news for any student interested in attending a college in a geographic location far away from their home.


The vast majority of schools that operate solely online have very generous acceptance policies, but that does not mean anyone with any experience should apply. Success in college comes the same way, whether you are enrolled in online study or taking classes on campus. Studying hard and dedicating yourself to your studies is important whether you’ve chosen one of the nation’s colleges with a high acceptance rate or a selective university with a traditional campus.

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