What Is a “Provisional Admission” in College?

What Is a “Provisional Admission” in College?

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You’ve just gotten into the university of your dreams! While reading your acceptance letter, though, you came across the phrase “provisional admission,” so you begin to wonder whether you should be celebrating your acceptance at all. What exactly is “provisional admission” and how will it affect your college life?

Provisional admission is offered to college students who are not eligible for full admission at the time of application. This means that the student must meet certain requirements within a prescribed period before gaining full eligibility.

There are several reasons why universities offer provisional admission to incoming students, both undergraduate and graduate. In the rest of this article, let’s take a deeper look into provisional admission and what it means to be a provisional student.

What Does It Mean To Be “Provisionally Accepted”?

To be provisionally accepted means to be admitted into a college or university even though you do not fully meet all the requirements for admission at the time of your application. Your admission is subject to your ability or inability to complete certain requirements within a prescribed period.

These admission requirements vary with each academic institution and depend on whether you are applying as an undergraduate, graduate, or international student.

While a provisional admission is often seen as a negative thing, it’s actually a very generous approach to student screening. Applying for college is often a stressful experience, and so making room for students who show promise but are not able to meet all requirements for acceptance is actually a good thing.

It may mean having to prove that you deserve the spot you’re given. But then it also does mean that you’ve already gotten in! And the hard work that your university expects from you is hard work that you will benefit from eventually.

But are universities simply being generous towards students? What exactly are the reasons behind a provisional admission?

Why Schools Offer Provisional Admission

There are several reasons why universities offer provisional admission. Let’s take a look at each in detail.

To Make Sure You Complete Course Prerequisites

If you’re applying as a graduate student at a different university or for a course not related to your bachelor’s degree, chances are you’ll have to complete prerequisite undergraduate units before taking any graduate units.

This will help align and prepare you for the graduate units you plan to take. But other times, it’s because some universities do not credit units taken at a different school. 

Putting you on provisional admission helps universities ensure that you are properly aligned with their curriculum so that you may ease into your classes better. But this also means that you may take longer to finish your graduate course.

To Ensure That International Students Are Well-Adjusted

Some universities offer provisional admission to international students in order to make sure that they continue to pursue studies that help them adjust to the new learning environment. Most of the time, this means that international students have to keep studying English if they don’t already speak the language.

It’s a way by which schools can ensure that international students don’t just come for a semester or two and stop because they are unable to, say, fully understand their lessons. 

To Prevent Senioritis

Senioritis is a condition where students who performed exceptionally well during their freshman year get into a slump, become demotivated, and begin to do badly in their studies nearing graduation.

While the term is pretty new, this condition has been around for a while. Students stop exerting themselves in class, taking their schoolwork seriously, or even showing up at school. It’s a widespread and common phenomenon that schools want to put an end to.

And although there’s likely no one cure for senioritis, giving tangible, real incentives for consistently good performance is a good way to keep it from happening. 

What Are the Different Provisional Admission Statuses?

The different provisional admission statuses include those for undergraduate students, graduate and postgraduate students, and pending proof of English proficiency. When you get accepted as a provisional student, you need to find out what provisional admission status you have. 

This status will determine the period within which you may comply with necessary requirements or what academic program you’re allowed to enroll in.

Let’s take a look at each status in detail.

Provisional Admission for Undergraduate Students

This provisional admission status is for undergraduate students who are enrolled in a specific program of study. Their provisional admission may extend for up to two semesters only.

If a provisional student with this status fails to comply with necessary requirements within the prescribed two semesters, they will automatically be terminated from the program and not allowed to enroll during the following semester.

Typically, documents required to attain full eligibility include a high school transcript of records and a diploma. In order to avoid going beyond the deadline for compliance, secure all your academic documents even before college applications. 

You will need these documents whichever college you apply to.

Provisional Admission for Graduate and Post-Graduate Students

This provisional admission status is given to graduate and post-graduate students who fail to submit documentation of obtaining their bachelor’s or master’s degrees. 

In most cases, there is no fixed period for when such provisional student has to submit academic documentation, but it is noted that they will be unable to graduate without complying with admission requirements beforehand.

Whether you have taken the prerequisite course work or are shifting to a completely different field of study, a student typically remains in the program for one to three years. 

If you are given this provisional admission status, you must submit academic documentation such as your transcript of records, relevant certificates, and diplomas. If you are an international graduate or post-graduate student, you will need to provide these documents possibly on top of certificates of English proficiency.

Also, it’s essential to ask your university registrar or graduate office if you need to provide original documents, or if notarized or certified true copies of your documents will do. Some universities require original copies, so bear that in mind and process those ahead of time.

Provisional Admission Pending Proof of English Proficiency

If you are a graduate or post-graduate international student who was not able to supply the documentary requirements for admission when you applied, you fall under this category.

This status is similar to the previous one, with the only difference being you will need to provide proof of English proficiency on top of academic documentation pertaining to your undergraduate and graduate degrees. 

The purpose of this provisional admission status is to ensure that international students are sufficiently fluent in the language so that it does not interfere with comprehension or participation in class.

There usually is a limit as to when an international provisional student will be allowed to submit English test scores or certifications. And when such is not provided on or before the deadline, the student may not be permitted to register or proceed to a planned academic program.

Take note that even if you have been fluent in English for a very long time, you will need to provide proof of English proficiency if you are coming from a different, non-English speaking country.

What Is a Provisional Student?

A provisional student is someone whose acceptance into a college or university is subject to their ability to meet admission requirements within a prescribed period. This means that they may need to take a few courses or finish a semester or two in order to become fully enrolled.

Also, someone who gets accepted as a provisional student is not one who didn’t meet the merit or grade requirement by the university, as is often the misconception. 

So if you’re a provisional student, there’s no reason to feel bad. It’s often simply a technical matter relating to the number of required units or undergraduate course work and is rarely because your grades aren’t high enough.

How Long Do You Remain a Provisional Student?

You will remain a provisional student for as long as it takes to complete the requirements set by the university or college. The earlier you complete those, the earlier you get full eligibility.

Provisional admission is a temporary student status and is not meant to last longer than one or two semesters. Also, if you fail to comply with the requirements within the period prescribed, your admission could be terminated.

Moreover, bear in mind that you cannot graduate with provisional status. So don’t get lazy with compliance, and work hard to gain full eligibility as soon as you can.


If you’ve just received an acceptance letter offering a provisional admission status, don’t get intimidated by it. There’s work involved towards clinching full eligibility. But if this is the university you really want to attend, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by going! And besides, all the hard work you’ll be doing will be for your own good in the end.