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Auto enrollment? UT raises admission standards

The 40-odd seniors who are graduating early at Bearden and Farragut high schools aren’t the only ones who should be concerned about getting into college. High school students who expect to be automatically admitted to the University of Tennessee or other state universities may be surprised to learn that they need to bring up their grades, prepare for standardized tests and participate in after-school activities.

Tennessee’s universities have been so inundated with freshman admission requests that they are more able to pick and choose among students. This change has been brought about by the HOPE scholarship, which has allowed many more students access to a college education. Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation administers the scholarship. The TSAC web site lists $3,300 as the yearly award amount for four-year institutions and $1,650, or no more than cost of attendance, for two-year schools. UT’s tuition cost for this fall’s semester is $2,645.

Entering freshmen (high school class of 2005 and thereafter) must have a minimum of a 21 ACT (980 SAT) or an overall unweighted minimum 3.0 grade point average. Home school graduates must have a 21 on the ACT (980 SAT). GED applicants must have scored a minimum 525 and have a 21 ACT (980 SAT).

Once a student has received the scholarship, he must maintain an acceptable GPA in order to reapply the next year, said Eva Peters, college counselor at FHS. She said that one change since the origination of the HOPE scholarship is that students are now allowed to reapply if the scholarship is lost due to low grades.

In addition to the HOPE standards are UT’s requirements. The average ACT score for last year’s high school graduates who applied for fall admission to UT was 25.6, Peters said. The average GPA was 3.5.

What if the student doesn’t have as high a gpa or test score as he or she would like?

“UT has no minimum or cutoff test scores in order to apply for admission,” advises the UT Web site. “UT seeks to admit those with the highest scores of the applicant pool. We strongly suggest that students take the ACT or SAT for the first time no later than their junior year.” Students can benefit from taking these tests more than once, because the university uses “superscoring”, which uses the higher score from each section of the test, therefore giving a higher composite score.

“There are a lot of things that go into the admission decision,” Peters said, adding that the admission decision often hinges on factors other than GPA and test scores.

“UT will look at class difficulty and would like honors or AP classes,” she said.

“The admission office will look for sustained activity, positions of leadership and community service such as the canned food drive and Buddy’s Race for the Cure,” she said.

“In many cases they would wind up with 20 students with the same GPA and test scores,” she said. In that case, administrators look at letters of recommendation (from adults) or a student’s essay to get a truer picture. “That might tip the balance in their favor,” she added.

UT will consider a history of UT attendance by parents and other relatives.

“If they bleed orange, they want to know about it,” she said.

“In fact, first time freshman enrollment probably will decrease slightly at Knoxville,” reports “The university believes most of the enrollment growth in Tennessee higher education should be at the community colleges, which are less expensive for the students and the taxpayers and where many students can benefit from gaining their early college experience close to home. Those students who succeed academically can transfer to UT at the upper class level. This strategy makes good sense for students and is cost efficient for the state as well. At Knoxville, total headcount enrollment will not change significantly, but the mix of students will change. As mentioned above, enrollment of first-time freshmen will decrease as the university raises its admission standards. But transfer student numbers should increase.”


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