Much to the delight of many would-be international students, the college admissions process is no longer a black and white affair. Indeed, given the ever-increasing contribution that international student enrollment make to both the campus diversity and bottom line of colleges and universities in the US, more students than ever are finding that the answer is not yes or no – but maybe.

Driven in part by the increased competition for international students among American institutes of higher education, more and more flexibility is being applied to admissions criteria. Thus, instead of relying purely on a student’s performance in secondary school or on a proficiency exam, such decisions are being made by holistically evaluating a combination of factors. If a given student’s English proficiency test scores fail to meet the establish benchmarks, then, an offer of conditional admission may be extended instead.

While the practice of conditional admission is not entirely new – Michigan State has been doing it for decades – in the past conditionally accepted students were required to complete intensive English as a Second Language coursework before beginning university-level coursework. Under these circumstances, then, a given student would be required to demonstrate improved proficiency before beginning any courses that would count towards his or her degree.

In recent years, however, a growing number of schools have changed the way they use conditional admission. Now, thanks to in-house or third-party pathway programs tied directly to a parent university, students can work on improving their English language proficiency while simultaneously beginning their academic courses. Because students can begin amassing credits towards their degree immediately, it builds a long-term relationship between the school and the student. In this way the system is a win-win for both parties: students are able to begin their college careers while still improving their English language skills and colleges and universities can attract (and retain) still eager pupils from around the world.

* Admission Sign Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock