Are Colleges with High Admissions Rates Bad?

Students who are building their college lists tend to start at one place: the rankings. Some students prefer the school’s overall ranking while some prefer to check the ranking of their intended major. While that is a great place to locate your reach and dream schools, your list should be well-rounded and include both likely admissions and safety schools. That is where colleges with high admissions rates come in.

While it is easy to get caught up on the ranking or selectivity of a school, the most important thing you should be considering is FIT. You will need to live and work there for the next 4+ years, and making sure it is a campus with the culture and experiences you are looking for is the most important part of your search. You should be happy to attend any school on your list – even the safety schools, because there is always a chance that you will have to. 

Are Colleges with a high acceptance rate bad?

High Admissions Rates Do Not Equal a “Bad Education”

Why do so Many People get in?

Schools with high admissions rates, meaning campuses that have an acceptance rate higher than 50%, have a few reasons that they might have a high acceptance rate, and often it is a combination of factors. 

1. Their freshman class has more seats than a highly selective college. 

The bigger the institution, the more students they can accept in their freshman class. Since admission rate is a factor of how many are admitted vs how many applied, schools with larger freshman classes will naturally have a higher admissions rate, if the number of students who apply is equalized. 

2. They are a state institution and are access-minded

State institutions (which also tend to have some of the largest student bodies), are often focused on educational attainment for students in their own state. That means that one of their goals is to prioritize students in-state. Being “highly selective” does not support being accessible to people from all walks of life, so these institutions often have higher admissions rates. 

3. They have a low “yield” rate, meaning they need to accept more students to fill their class.

Some institutions are lower on someone’s college list for reasons only they know. If they get admitted to both a college with high admissions rate AND a school higher on their list, they may choose to attend the other school. That would take away from the less selective school’s yield rate- meaning the amount of students who attend after getting accepted to the college. To accommodate for those students, schools do their own math and decide how many students need to be given admission to enroll the class size they want. That can lead to some schools having higher acceptance rates.

4. They are a very small regional institution that receives significantly less applications.

Again, as admissions rate is a factor of the number of applicants and the number admitted, lowering the number of applicants will raise their acceptance rate.

Does Less Selective Mean Worse?

In short, no. There are so many areas that one may judge a university on so it would be hard to define something as obviously “worse.” The US News and World Report uses a number of factors to rank schools and all are meaningful, but very few have a specific impact on your experience as a student. Institutions that have low levels of research may be ranked lower, but they may prioritize undergraduate teaching or have smaller class sizes – meaning that they might be better teaching institutions. You may favor a campus with a more social atmosphere, which isn’t a part of the USNWR metrics. 

If all of the things that you are looking for in a college match with a school with a high admissions rate, that’s great news! Either you have a solid chance of attending a school you like, or you have a likely admission to help fill your safety list while you shoot for some reach schools.

High Admission Rate Colleges are an Important Part of the Process

Building a robust list for your college application process is important, especially for students applying to competitive majors like nursing, computer science, engineering, and business. Colleges with high acceptance rates should absolutely be on your list, unless you want to be one of those people who only apply to top 20 universities and receive no acceptances. More than anything, it’s important for you to fall in love with your safety schools too!
Not sure how to identify a safety school? Colleges with high acceptance rates can be a good place to start, but our consultants can help you understand how your profile stacks up across all schools. Contact us today to learn more.

Former Undergraduate Admissions Reader at Stanford University
MA in Higher Education Administration at Stanford University
Director Of Education at ICOHS College

Jessica is a graduate of Chapman University with a BA in higher education and received her MA from Stanford University in higher education administration. Her research focused on women and students of color in STEM fields. At Stanford, she contributed as an admissions reader and has volunteered to assist low-income students with their college applications.

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