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by Ryan Kelley, former admissions officer at Fordham University

The college admission process can be stressful for many reasons. There are so many colleges and universities out there that, if nothing else, the sheer volume of options is enough to cause anxiety.  There is also the belief that all schools are very competitive and you need to be number one in your senior class with perfect test scores to be competitive for admission. While this may be closer to the truth for some schools, like the highly selective ones, not all schools fall into this category. There are thousands of schools in the country far less competitive in the admission process. Not only do they not have single digit acceptance rates, but many clearly lay out exactly what they are looking for in a successful applicant, making determining your likelihood for admission before you even apply that much easier. 

These less selective colleges and universities come in all types, from small to large, public and private, down the street and across the country. Many of these less selective schools are well known regionally or even nationally. Schools you may have heard of that fall into the less selective category are Michigan State, Louisiana State, Indiana University Bloomington and High Point University, all having acceptance rates in the 70%-80% range. Before you become too stressed out that you will not get into college—for whatever reason—read on and see why some less selective colleges and universities may be your “port in the storm” of the college application process.

It may feel like highly selective colleges and universities deliberately add layers to the process to increase stress or even cause applicants to not apply at all. While some may do this, many are simply trying to determine who will be successful in a highly competitive academic environment. Less selective schools can turn down the heat on the process in many ways. Some offer multiple application deadlines, allowing you additional time and flexibility to complete the application, or Rolling Admission, which lets you apply early, late, or sometime in the middle and still be considered. Many less selective schools will state on their websites exactly how they review applications, the order of importance of what they are looking for in the application, and even the exact criteria needed for admission. This transparency helps prospective candidates determine their likelihood for admission. If they are unlikely to be admitted at one school, they can focus their energy on another school’s application. Many of these less selective colleges also ask for less information from applicants; for example, they may not require essays or letters of recommendation. With fewer hoops to jump through, students who may otherwise find the application process daunting will appreciate the ease of applying to these colleges.

Here are a few examples of less selective schools and how they conduct their application process:

  • Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina has an admissions rate of 70%. CCU offers Rolling Admission meaning, once the application is available, you can apply when you like. Ideally, this is before April. Once your application is submitted, you will have a decision returned to you in roughly a month. CCU makes it clear on their admission website what they are looking for in the application: grades, classes, and test scores. Being a South Carolina resident can be a positive in the review as well. Other documentation may be sent or even requested when needed, but the majority of the review will be based off your academic credentials.
  • Auburn University in Alabama has an admissions rate of 81%. They are a deadline application, meaning you must apply by a specific date to be considered for admission as well as other things like scholarships and housing. However, after the deadline, the application is not closed, but is simply reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Auburn also clearly indicates what they are looking for in the application: grades, classes, and test scores are of most importance. If a student decides to apply test optional, additional consideration will be placed on the rigor of the classes taken and the high school they attended.
  • Marquette University in Wisconsin has an admissions rate of 83%. Their application review process is more traditional in that they have a hard and fast deadline and a holistic review of all parts of the application. Meaning, they consider the entirety of the applicant from grades to test scores to extracurricular activities, letters of recommendations, and essays before making a final decision. But, they will also allow additional documentation to be submitted in support of an applicant’s candidacy, such as additional letters of recommendation or personal statements.

There are plenty of good schools out there that have the name recognition many are looking for, but also demystify their application review process. Looking for schools where admission may not be as competitive may provide students and their families a welcome respite from the stressful, often complicated and confusing, college admission process. With a little research, a student can find schools to apply to that are both a good fit and provide an easier, more straightforward pathway.

College Application Prep 101

Written by Ryan Kelley
Ryan Kelley is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions consultants. Ryan is a graduate of Stonehill College and Fordham University; prior to joining College Coach, Ryan was an admissions officer at Fordham, UC Boulder, and Roger Williams. Visit our website to learn more about Ryan Kelley.