In its purest form, a college that has open admissions allows any student with a high school diploma or GED certificate to attend. Open admissions gives any student who has completed high school the opportunity to pursue a college degree.
The reality isn't quite so simple. At four-year colleges, students are sometimes guaranteed admission if they meet minimum test score and GPA requirements. In these situations, a four-year college often collaborates with a community college so that students who don't meet the minimum requirements can still begin their college educations.
Also, guaranteed admission to an open admission college doesn't always mean that a student can take courses. If a college has too many applicants, students may find themselves waitlisted for some if not all courses. This scenario has proven all too common in the current economic climate.
The open admissions movement began in the second half of the 20th century and had many ties to the civil rights movement. California and New York were on the forefront of making college accessible to all high school graduates.
Community colleges are almost always open admissions, as are a significant number of four-year colleges and universities.
The policy is not without its critics who argue that graduation rates tend to be low, college standards are lowered and the need for remedial courses increases.