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    What is Direct Admission? Everything You Need to Know

    By Cait Williams

    Cait Williams is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cait recently graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Journalism and Strategic Communications. During her time at OU, was active in the outdoor recreation community.

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    Reviewed by Bill Jack

    Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: April 15th, 2024
    What is Direct Admission? Everything You Need to Know

    For a long time the college admissions process has been marked by prestige, competition, and a lot of unspoken gatekeeping. The future of college admissions may be taking a turn from all of those things through an idea called “direct admission,” which hopes to break down some of those barriers. It has risen significantly in popularity in the past several years, and is expected to grow over the next few years. So, let’s talk about it!

    What is direct admission?

    Let’s start with an explanation of direct admission, which is designed to offer students admission into college without making students go through the whole college admissions process. Take a look at the two models below:

    Rather than entire applications, students will make a profile that includes things such as their GPA, where they attend high school, their grade level, and other general information. Colleges will then be able to view these profiles and offer admissions to the students that fit their admissions criteria.

    The goals of direct admission

    Changing the college admissions process is an enormous undertaking, but that’s exactly what direct admission is setting out to do. They’re targeting major hurdles that have plagued the college world both recently and for some time now: Money, diversity and declining enrollment. 


    On average, college applications can cost between $50-$90 dollars each. It is generally recommended that students apply to between 5-8 colleges that are a mix of safety, reach and match schools. Let’s look at some numbers:

    Number of colleges Application Cost Total cost of applying
    5 $50 – $90 $250 – $450
    6 $50 – $90 $300 – $540
    7 $50 – $90 $350 – $630
    8+ $50 – $90 $400 – $720+

    The numbers above are no small amount of money, especially when you think about the fact that even if you are admitted to all those schools, you’ll only be able to attend one. With direct admission though, the cost of applications is almost entirely mitigated, eliminating a huge financial barrier. 

    Keep in mind that some sites that allow you to create a high school profile may still have a cost that comes with them. However, this cost should be relatively small compared to college application costs, and may be able to be waived for students who qualify.

    Increase diversity and change demographics

    Through the direct admissions process, colleges are hoping to extend their reach to students who may not have the option to apply to college in the conventional ways. Colleges and universities want to see an increase in diversity and varying student demographics. The Common App specifically wants to aid “first generation and lower-income students”

    Reverse the decline

    While it may be hard to believe, college admissions have actually seen a steady decline over the past decade. Student debt has become more and more problematic and a lot of people either don’t want to take debt on, nor do they have the money to pay for school upfront. With direct admission though, some people believe the tide may turn and enrollment will begin to steadily rise. It’s true that direct admission may not directly enroll students, but an increase in admissions offers should at least open the door for more students to see college as an option.

    Where it all began 

    The first state to implement direct enrollment was Idaho. The program began in 2015 and has only grown over the past several years. Students can count on being offered admission to at least six different state schools after graduating from high school.

    But Idaho wasn’t the only one to jump on the direct admission train. In 2021 The Common App launched its first pilot program for direct admissions. In order to participate, students simply had to make a common app profile and provide some basic academic information. From there, the six participating colleges that The Common App partnered with offered admissions to students whose profiles matched their entrance criteria. Common App now partners with seventy colleges.

    The Common App is not the only one beginning to offer programs like this though. Companies like Niche and Concourse are also partnering with colleges to offer students access to direct admission colleges. 

    Financial aid and direct admission

    Some colleges may be able to offer you a financial aid offer along with your admissions offer. However, not all colleges are guaranteed to make you those offers at the same time. For most students who will use direct admission to enter into college, financial aid will be an important piece of the puzzle. Reach out to schools you’re interested in to ask about their financial aid policies. 

    To accept or not accept

    While it may seem counterproductive to hear, the truth is that just because you received an offer from a college does not mean that you should necessarily accept their offer. Beyond an acceptance letter, you’ll need to think of the total cost of attendance, how to pay for housing, monthly expenses, if you’ll have reliable transportation to or around campus, and so on. There are a lot of moving parts in the college process. While we don’t want you to become overwhelmed, we also don’t want you to overlook anything. Take your time with these important decisions. 

    How do you participate in direct admission?

    Direct admission is still relatively new and not something that is widely used. So, in order to take part in this process, you’ll need to identify where you can make a profile and what colleges can then view that profile.  

    Not all colleges will have the same requirements for direct admission. Some colleges may only require students to have graduated from high school, while others may require a certain GPA or SAT / ACT score. Speak to your guidance counselor, as they should be able to provide you more specific information that is relevant to where you live and what your options are. 

    What it all means…

    The future of direct admissions isn’t certain. As we said above, changing the college admissions process is no small task and it’s not certain that it will actually cause enrollment and therefore graduation rates to rise. It’s unclear how direct admission and financial aid will come together. For now, it’s a starting point from which specific barriers can begin to be broken down. It’s unclear how direct admissions may look at colleges like Harvard or Stanford, which are known for their rigorous application requirements. Again, it’s an issue that only time will tell.

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • Direct admission changes the way that students are accepted into college by directly offering admissions to students who meet a basic list of criteria 
    • Through direct admission, the cost of applying to college may be lowered, a wider more diverse student population may increase and overall college enrollment may increase
    • Explore what options you have for creating a student profile and what schools will be able to see that profile
    • The future of direct admissions is still unknown, but may very well be an important factor in shaping college admissions trends over the next decade or more

    Frequently asked questions about direct admission

    What is reverse admission?

    Reverse admission is another term that can be used to describe direct admission. This term simply refers to the college admissions process being flipped. Instead of colleges waiting for you to apply to them, the colleges reach out to you with their admissions offers.

    What are the benefits of direct admission?

    One of the most obvious benefits of direct admission is that students do not need to spend nearly as much time and money to apply to colleges that may or may not accept them. This benefit is especially important for students who may not have a lot of financial resources to apply to many colleges, but are interested in going to college. Other benefits of direct admission include potentially shorter wait time to hear back from colleges, 

    What is a direct admission major?

    A direct admission major follows the same concept as direct admission into college. However, instead of being accepted into a college, you are accepted into your intended major. If you’re unfamiliar with the college major process, it’s important to understand that for some majors you will need to be accepted into that major before you can pursue it. Instead, you will need to declare that that is what you want to study and then meet the eligibility criteria to be accepted into that major. Eligibility criteria usually includes taking prerequisite classes and maintaining a certain GPA.

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