College Pete

Univ. of FL: Holistic v Competitive Admissions – Separating Fact from Urban Legend

Univ. of FL: Holistic v Competitive Admissions – Separating Fact from Urban Legend

At the University of Florida, they get right to the point.

I visited UF yesterday, and the opening remarks at their info session were all about numbers (SAT 1330-1470, ACT 30-34, GPA 4.4), deadlines (Nov. 1) and the selective nature of their admissions process. Note to students: Apply by Nov 1. Period. End of story.

And yet, the admissions counselor leading the presentation, Melissa Sisk, was clear to point out that UF follows a “holistic” process (like many other colleges), as opposed to a competitive process when considering applicants. In other words, grades and scores are not all that they look at. They also take a look at rigor of the transcript (including 12th grade courses), the extra-curricular record of the applicant, and the personal statement. In fact, as I’ve mentioned a time or two-hundred about all colleges, this last piece is closely scrutinized by the UF admissions team.

There is considerable evidence to back this up. Over the years, many highly qualified students with strong GPAs and test scores have been denied from UF because the non-numerical aspects of their application did not meet whatever standard UF requires – or did not differentiate them from the other myriad applicants with similar numbers. Perhaps you’ve heard the examples: admitted to Cal-Berkeley, denied from UF; admitted to Cornell, denied from UF; admitted to Emory, denied from UF. The University of Florida is uber-selective: they know it, they’re proud of it, and they’re not shy in letting you know it.

Ms. Sisk also dispelled some myths that students and parents hold about UF. For example, there is no advantage in applying for summer admission vs. fall admission at UF. Students make their selection, and the admissions office tries to meet that preference, but there is no admissions advantage either way. Similarly, UF doesn’t look at chosen major on the application as any kind of factor in the admissions process. So if you apply as a mechanical engineer it offers no advantage over a student applying as a psychology major, or vice versa.

One item was absolutely clear – the UF admissions deadline is November 1. They say they will review applications “on a space-available basis” after November 1, but Ms. Sisk was quite clear in expressing that if you want to get into UF you must submit your application by November 1, plain and simple. Again, they’re selective, they’re desirable, and they know it. So meet their deadline.

As far as the personal statement is concerned, UF takes this part of the application very seriously, just as most other selective colleges do. Which is why when we are working with students we pay particular attention to this part of the application. In fact, we’ve been working with students throughout the summer, helping them express themselves in a clear, specific way so that their personal statements stand out from the pack. “Specific” is a word that Ms. Sisk used when explaining what they are looking for, and it’s something we emphasize in our practice. My students understand this, and we challenge them regularly to be more specific. This summer we’ve seen some great essays so far, and our kids are making amazing progress.

The Common App opens on August 1, which is less than 2 weeks away. For the Class of 2023 the admissions season is nearly upon us. Are you ready?

If you’re unsure where to start, or you need help reaching your child’s admissions goals, or you are wondering how you’re going to pay for college, then let’s start the conversation. This is not something you want to wait on. When it comes to college admissions and financial aid, earlier planning is always better.

The most frustrating part of my work is when I must inform a parent that I’m not able to help them because we’re too late in the process. For 12th grade families that time is approaching. For 10th and 11th grade parents, take advantage of this opportunity while the window remains open. I don’t want you to be one of those parents who says to me, “I wish I contacted you earlier”. This happened to me just yesterday, and it’s an uncomfortable discussion to inform a parent that it’s too late to assist them. So don’t be that parent. Instead, be proactive so that you and your child enjoy the best chance for success. I look forward to hearing from you.

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