Waiting for that college acceptance—or rejection—letter is stressful for just about any high school student, no matter how good your grades are. But if you live in the right state, you can take the pressure off by putting “guaranteed admission” universities on your college list. Sometimes called “automatic” or “assured” admission, these state programs admit first-year students automatically if they meet the standard academic requirements. The goal? States want to ease the path to higher education for students who may not have support at home and encourage high-performing residents to attend in-state schools. Here’s a roundup of the states that offer automatic admission, with a couple of pilot programs that may take off statewide in the near future.
The Arizona state university system guarantees admission to resident students who meet a participating university’s requirements, typically a minimum 3.0 GPA or ranking in the top 25th percentile of their high school class. Students also need to demonstrate academic competency in certain core subjects. Please note that each university can add its own requirements, and admission doesn’t guarantee entrance to a particular degree program.
California offers two guaranteed pathways to the University of California system for eligible students, and if you’re not admitted to the schools you apply to, you’ll be offered a spot at another UC campus if space is available.
- The Statewide Guarantee offers admission to resident students ranked in the top 9% of California’s public high school graduates based on a Statewide Index calculation.
- The Eligible in the Local Context (ELC) pathway is for students in the top 9% of their graduating class from an ELC-participating high school. Like the Statewide Guarantee, you’ll be offered a spot at a UC campus, space permitting, if you don’t get accepted to your schools of choice.
Florida’s Talented Twenty Program guarantees residents admission to one of 12 State University System of Florida schools, including Florida Atlantic University and Florida Polytechnic University. Students must rank in the top 20% of their class and meet the academic requirements. You don’t need to apply to the program, but you do need to fill out applications to the schools you’re interested in. Applying to at least three is recommended, and you’re not guaranteed placement at the specific schools you choose.
Idaho’s program is called Direct Admissions. High school students with a minimum 3.0 GPA and qualifying SAT scores are notified by the State Board’s Direct Admission Program that they qualify for any of the state’s eight public universities, including the University of Idaho. After you’re conditionally admitted, you choose which universities to submit the Apply Idaho application to. If your GPA doesn’t qualify for these institutions, you may be notified to apply to six other two-year and technical colleges.
Illinois is currently testing a guaranteed admission program that ends with the 2023–2024 academic year. “The uniform admission pilot is a four-year program that guarantees applicants admission to specific Illinois public institutions should they meet certain criteria,” says José Garcia from the Illinois Board of Higher Education. “We expect to evaluate and analyze the pilot program's outcomes once data for the complete duration of the program become available.” Participating institutions include Eastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University (both campuses), and Western Illinois University. Residents should keep their ears open to learn whether the program goes forward.
Under the State Board of Regents, Iowa high schoolers who score a 245 on the state Regent Admission Index and fulfill other university-specific requirements are guaranteed admission to Iowa’s Regent universities, which are the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa. You can still apply without this score, but your application is evaluated as any other non-guaranteed applicant.
The six Kansas state public universities offer qualified admissions to high school seniors or other first-year college applicants who meet admission requirements. This includes the required GPA for a particular university—ranging from 2.25–3.25 minimums—and possibly ACT or SAT scores. The University of Kansas requires both, but other universities require only a qualifying test score or GPA. High schoolers are recommended to complete the Kansas Scholars Curriculum, but it’s not mandatory anymore.
Mississippi public universities, including Mississippi State University, offer the Preparing for Success program to Mississippi high schoolers who have completed a college prep curriculum with a GPA of 3.2 or higher. Specific ACT or SAT scores and a ranking in the top 50% of your class can compensate for grades and allow a GPA as low as 2.5 as an alternative.
Missouri’s 10 public universities automatically admit resident students who meet highly selective, selective, or moderately selective benchmark categories. For example, the Missouri University of Science & Technology and Truman State University are designated as highly selective and require a score of 140 or higher derived from high school percentile rank and SAT/ACT percentile rank. Alternatively, a 27 on the ACT or an equivalent SAT score would admit you as well. Selective and moderately selective universities, such as the University of Missouri–Columbia, have less demanding benchmarks.
Students are guaranteed admission to Montana universities by completing the Regents College Preparatory Program, meeting the math/writing proficiency benchmarks, having a minimum 2.5 GPA or ranking in the top 50% of your class, and meeting the ACT/SAT score requirement. You can apply through the Apply Montana portal and receive a fee waiver for being a resident.
In Nebraska, students receive assured admission to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the University of Nebraska–Omaha, and the University of Nebraska–Kearney if they’ve completed the required core coursework and have a minimum 3.0 GPA, receive an ACT score of 20 (or SAT equivalent), or rank in the top 50% of their class. Meeting the application deadline is a must for assured admission, so stay on top of your planning.
South Dakota offers a program called Proactive Admissions, which notifies eligible students of their guaranteed general acceptance to the state’s six public universities and four technical colleges. Admission requirements include meeting a minimum ACT score and math and English scores on the 11th grade South Dakota Assessment test. Once students receive the notification, they then apply to the college(s) of their choice by December 1 of senior year to get admitted. Some university programs may have additional requirements.
Outside of the University of Texas at Austin, the Lone Star State requires its public universities—such as Angelo State University and Texas Tech University—to admit resident students with a GPA in the top 10% of their high school class obtained sometime during junior or senior year. Students also need to meet the SAT or ACT requirements and have successfully met the curriculum requirements. UT–Austin’s requirements are a little more selective, accepting students ranked in the top 6% of their class by the end of junior year (rank requirement varies by year).
Washington’s Guaranteed Admissions Program hasn’t gone statewide yet, but it’s worth exploring anyway. Piloted in 2021–2022, it has now expanded to 65 Washington school districts. Five universities, including Western Washington University and Washington State University, offer automatic admission to students in participating districts with a 3.0 GPA and the completed College Academic Distribution Requirements coursework. Once accepted, you must apply with the Common Application to your schools of choice. Stay informed as the program expands to determine if you’re eligible to apply.
Remember: Even if you don’t meet guaranteed admission requirements or miss the general admission deadline, you can still apply to any university! Your application will simply be reviewed as any other student. In fact, it’s recommended you apply to other colleges to keep your options open since some states’ automatic admission systems have space constraints (like California and Florida).
If you’re inclined to look out of state, keep in mind that staying in state can open access to state-sponsored grant or scholarship programs. Explore what’s available, and don’t forget to look for automatic admission guidelines from individual universities, which they usually post on their websites. Good luck!
Want to explore other potential schools beyond the ones mentioned in this article? Find schools in your area with our comprehensive lists of colleges by state!