Different U.S. undergraduate institutions vary in their admissions policies and practices. Below some terms are defined that tend to be particularly confusing to international students.
- Conditional Admission. Means the student must complete some step before being offered admission. This might include providing a missing final grade or secondary school completion document, improving English proficiency to a specific level, or doing well during the initial semester at the institution.
- Open Admission. Some U.S. institutions admit all students who meet a few basic requirements, such as secondary school completion and English proficiency. Admission is noncompetitive though students will have to meet academic expectations to remain in the program.
- Rolling Admission. Some U.S. institutions do not have a specific deadline for application materials, but process each whenever all required materials are received. It is still a good idea to apply early as programs will have a limited number of spaces to fill and financial aid (if offered) will be limited--early applicants have an advantage.
- Early Decision. At some institutions, applicants can agree in advance to attend if accepted, and their applications are processed early. Students should only apply early decision to one institution and only then if they are sure they want to go to that institution—early decision involves a commitment to attend.
- Early Action. At some schools, applications received by a certain date are processed early and the applicants are informed whether or not they will be admitted. No commitment to attend the school is involved.