What Is Conditional Admission? What Does It Mean for You?


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.

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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 79 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.

School Academic Level English-Language Requirements
Arizona State University Undergraduate Complete Advanced 2 level of English-language course at ASU Global Launch
Baldwin Wallace University Undergraduate, graduate Enroll at LADO International Institute
Berkeley College Undergraduate, graduate Complete approved ESL program
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona) Undergraduate Complete Cal Poly English Language Institute (CPELI) Level 5
California State University, Chico Undergraduate, graduate Enroll at American Language and Culture Institute (ALCI) Chico
California State University, Fullerton Undergraduate, graduate Complete American Language Program (ALP) and meet minimum required TOEFL score
California State University, Sonoma (Sonoma State University) Undergraduate, graduate Enroll at Sonoma State American Language Institute (SSALI)
City College of San Francisco Undergraduate Complete Intensive English Program (IEP) and meet minimum required score on Institutional TOEFL or placement test
Clark University Undergraduate, graduate Enroll at American Language and Culture Institute (ALCI)
College of Charleston Undergraduate Enroll at English Language Institute (ELI)
College of Staten Island, CUNY Undergraduate, graduate Enroll at English Language Institute (ELI) and meet minimum required TOEFL score
DePaul University Undergraduate, graduate Complete English Language Academy (ELA) and receive University Bridge Certificate
Drexel University Undergraduate, graduate Undergraduate students enroll in Drexel International Gateway program; graduate students enroll in Drexel Graduate Bridge program
Eastern Washington University Undergraduate Complete English Language Institute (ELI) program
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Undergraduate, graduate Complete Level 112 at ELS Language Center
Fairleigh Dickinson University Undergraduate, graduate Enroll at ESL Language Center and complete English for Academic Purposes (EAP) Program Level 112
Felician University Undergraduate, graduate Complete American Culture and English Studies (ACES) program
Foothill and De Anza Colleges Undergraduate Enroll at approved language center
Georgia Southern University Undergraduate Complete English Language Program (ELP)
Georgia State University Undergraduate Complete specific courses in Intensive English Program (IEP)
Glendale Community College Undergraduate Enroll at approved ESL language school
Grossmont College Undergraduate Complete American Collegiate English (ACE) program
Los Angeles Trade Technical College Undergraduate Enroll in Language Systems International or other approved language program
Loyola University New Orleans Undergraduate Enroll in LIEP Pilot Program
Manhattanville College Undergraduate, graduate Complete Level 5 of BridgePathways Academic English Program (AEP)
Michigan State University Undergraduate Complete English courses through English Language Center
Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey Graduate Enroll in Intensive English Program (ESL)
Middlesex Community College Undergraduate Enroll at partner English-language school
Mississippi State University Graduate Complete one year of ESL courses and pass required language test
North Central College Undergraduate, graduate Complete Intensive English Program at English Language Institute (ELI)
North Dakota State University Undergraduate Enroll in Intensive English Language Program (IELP)
Northeastern University College of Professional Studies Undergraduate, graduate Complete Phase 3 of American Classroom Program
Ohio University Undergraduate, graduate Complete Ohio Program of Intensive English (OPIE) or Bridge Program, depending on English proficiency level
Pace University Graduate (master’s only) Complete Global Pathways Program
Palomar College Undergraduate Complete approved TOEFL waiver program
Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) Graduate Complete certain remedial English courses
Pierce College Undergraduate Complete Intensive English Program (IEP)
Queens College, CUNY Graduate Enroll at English Language Institute (ELI)
Rochester Institute of Technology Undergraduate Take English courses
San Francisco State University Undergraduate Enroll at American Language Institute (ALI)
Seattle Pacific University Undergraduate Complete level 6 of partner ESL program (A.C.E. Language Institute or Washington Academy of Languages)
South Dakota State University Graduate Complete Intensive ESL Program and meet minimum required TOEFL or IELTS score for desired graduate program
South Seattle College Undergraduate Complete Intensive English Program (IEP)
Southern Illinois University Undergraduate Enroll at Center for English as a Second Language (CESL)
Southwestern Oregon Community College Undergraduate Enroll at partner language school
Temple University Undergraduate Complete Access Temple 2 English program
Towson University Undergraduate, graduate Undergraduate students must complete English Language Center Level 4; graduate students must complete English Language Center Level 6
Truman State University Undergraduate, graduate Retake TOEFL or IELTS, or enroll at The Language Company (TLC)
University of Alabama Undergraduate Enroll at English Language Institute (ELI)
University of Arizona Undergraduate Enroll at Center for English as a Second Language (CESL)
University of Arkansas Undergraduate, graduate Enroll at Spring International Language Center (SILC)
UCLA Extension Certificate Programs Certificate Enroll at UCLA Extension American Language Center (ALC)
University of Dayton Undergraduate, graduate Complete Intensive English Program (IEP)
University of Delaware Undergraduate, graduate Undergraduate students enroll in Academic Transitions (AT) program; graduate students enroll in Conditional Admissions Program (CAP)
University of Denver Undergraduate, graduate Enroll at English Language Center (ELC)
University of Illinois Springfield Undergraduate Complete Intensive English Program (IEP) or take level-appropriate ESL courses depending on TOEFL or IELTS scores
University of Iowa Undergraduate Complete Iowa Intensive English Program (IIEP)
University of Kansas Graduate Undergo Applied English Center (AEC) testing and take level-appropriate English classes
University of Maine Undergraduate Enroll at Intensive English Institute (IEI)
University of Maryland, Baltimore County Graduate Enroll in ESL courses through English Language Institute (ELI)
University of Miami Undergraduate Complete level five of Intensive English Program (IEP)
University of Michigan-Flint Undergraduate Enroll in English Language Pathway Program
University of Minnesota Twin Cities Undergraduate Complete one year of intensive English-language study at Minnesota English Language Program
University of Missouri Undergraduate Complete Intensive English Program (IEP)
University of Montana Graduate Enroll at English Language Institute (ELI)
University of Nevada, Reno Undergraduate Enroll at Intensive English Language Center (IELC)
University of North Texas Undergraduate, graduate Enroll at Intensive English Language Institute (IELI)
University of Northern Iowa Undergraduate Complete Culture and Intensive English Program (CIEP)
University of Redlands Undergraduate Complete Monterey Institute of International Studies Intensive English as a Second Language (MIIS IESL) program
University of South Carolina Undergraduate, graduate Complete required English courses at English Programs for Internationals (EPI) or fulfill departmental English-proficiency requirement
University of Southern Indiana Undergraduate, graduate Complete Intensive English Program (IEP)
University of Texas at Arlington Graduate Complete Graduate English Skills Program (GESP)
University of Texas at San Antonio Undergraduate Complete Intensive English Program (IEP)
Valencia College Undergraduate Complete Intensive English Program (IEP)
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) Undergraduate Complete Language and Culture Institute’s Intensive English Program through Level 550
Washington State University Undergraduate Complete Level 5 of Intensive American Language Center (IALC)
Wayne State University Undergraduate, graduate Complete highest-level English courses at English Language Institute (ELI)
Western Washington University Undergraduate Enroll in Intensive English Program (IEP) and Bridge Program
Winona State University Undergraduate, graduate Enroll at English Language Center (ELC)



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 79 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.


What’s Next?

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.

Want to get a great TOEFL score? Get expert tips on how to properly prepare for the TOEFL and learn about what features make the exam especially challenging.

Considering taking the IELTS instead? Read our guide to help you decide which test to take and compare the TOEFL and IELTS scoring systems using our handy conversion charts.

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Author: Hannah Muniz

Hannah graduated summa cum laude from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in English and East Asian languages and cultures. After graduation, she taught English in Japan for two years via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.