Myths about getting into University of Georgia: What matters. What doesn’t.

UGA is now accepting applications for next year. Read this blog about common assumptions, some of which are wrong. (UGA Photo)

In writing about education policy for the AJC for 19 years, one question from readers has become more common: Why is it so hard to get into the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech?

Two reasons: The HOPE Scholarship and the increasing cost of college.

I saw the cost escalation this past week when I took my twins to tour private campuses in the northeast. Admissions officers estimated the final price, including transportation home for breaks, would be $68,000 to $70,000 a year. As Tech and UGA became more competitive as a result of strong students remaining in Georgia because of HOPE, the colleges themselves and their national standings improved.

UGA's Dave Graves

UGA’s David Graves

In talking to parents, I find mythologies have developed around who gets into Tech and UGA. So, I sent both campuses some of the common assumptions to see how many were on the mark.

I shared Tech’s responses earlier this month.

UGA’s responses today come from David Graves, senior associate director of admissions operations and evaluation.

UGA’s early action deadline is Oct. 15 so share this blog with any high school seniors planning to apply to UGA. Graves does a great blog for UGA admissions that applicants ought to be reading regularly.

I want to point out something students should know about test scores. After posting Tech’s responses on the blog, I heard from test prep companies and high school counselors over what they regarded as a major and unannounced change in Tech policy.

Tech will now look at all four scores — math, reading, English and science — that make up the ACT.  Many more kids are taking the ACT over the SAT this year because of the wariness around the revamped SAT.

My twins had just taken a prep class for the ACT and received an email from the test company saying:

Groundbreaking news occurred yesterday when an AJC article broke the previously unannounced news regarding Georgia Tech and how they’re going to be changing how they count ACT scores for this year’s seniors, including those who’ve already applied. Georgia Tech has decided for the first time in almost a decade to use all four sections of the ACT (English/Math/Reading/Science). If GT is a school on your list, this final week and before any future ACT exam dates, spread your practice across all four sections, especially if your Reading and Science sections are much lower than your English and Math sections.

What’s interesting is UGA has not changed its policy and still only focuses on two of the four ACT categories, which can help or hurt a student depending on their strengths. So, keep that in mind.

Now, here are UGA’s responses. The statements in bold are what I asked UGA to address.

It is easier to get into UGA if you live in rural Georgia.

We have students from all across Georgia, all 50 states and 125 countries on our campuses. The academic profile of applicants, with a focus on the extent to which they have challenged themselves, is our primary consideration when making admissions decisions. Approximately 85 percent of our student body is from Georgia, and there are no quotas assigned to high school, county, zip code, or any other characteristics.

Conversely, it is harder to get into UGA if you attend a metro powerhouse school, such as a Walton or a Lambert, from which many top students apply.

The academic accomplishments of individual students—not location—is our primary consideration when making admissions decisions.

It is easier to get into UGA if you apply for an undersubscribed major, such as entomology. Colleges claim your major doesn’t matter, but, if so, aren’t schools at risk of being overrun with finance and business majors? 

Some universities admit students based on intended major, but UGA is not one of those universities. The Office of Undergraduate Admissions is focused on enrolling the most academically talented students, regardless of their intended major.

Even though the ACT has four parts, science, math, reading and English, UGA admits based only on the math and English scores. So, a student may have a composite score of 33, but could be rejected because of lower scores on the math and English portions. So, should students not worry about the science and reading portions of the ACT?

UGA does focus on the English and math sections of the ACT, as these two sections have been shown to be better predictors of college achievement than the reading and science sections.

Most students apply to more than one university, however, and other institutions may evaluate scores differently than UGA does.

Everyone knows somebody with a strong SAT/ACT score, a 3.8 GPA and lots of activities who did not get into UGA. Why would such a candidate be denied admission?

The number of applications for admission to the University of Georgia has been on an upward trajectory for the past several years, and this invariably results in some very strong students being denied admission. One of the factors that we emphasize in admissions decisions is the rigor of a students’ course selection. We expect students to take advantage of the most challenging courses offered at their high schools. To give just one example, it is possible that a student with a high GPA who has avoided the challenging courses offered at their high school may not be admitted, while a student with a lower GPA who has attempted the most rigorous courses at their school is offered admission. But the main reason so many excellent students are denied admission to UGA is simply that the number of outstanding students applying exceeds our capacity to admit them all.

UGA says it superscores SAT and ACT, but don’t admissions counselors really look at all the scores?

The form that we use to review students for admission only displays the strongest subscores and the superscore. We consider only the highest score on the SAT I, the ACT, and the SAT R, and we do not require that an applicant send us all scores.

UGA cares a lot about SAT and ACT scores.

We do use SAT/ACT scores as part of our review, but only as one of the three academic factors—core grades, overall curriculum review, and test scores. We place a greater emphasis on a student’s grades and course selection over their high school career than on how well they perform on standardized tests.

Class rank doesn’t matter because while public schools still rank students, most private schools do not.

In most cases, class rank is not a factor in the admissions process at UGA, as it may or may not reflect the rigor of a student’s chosen curriculum, and many schools calculate class rank differently. It has been the policy of the University of Georgia that the top two graduates of all SACS-accredited high schools in Georgia are assured admission to the university’s first-year class provided that a student meets certain criteria (Go here for more information). Our primary focus is on the grades earned and the curriculum that a student pursues, however.

Reader Comments 0

102 comments
JamesMagnus
JamesMagnus

I do believe that all instate srudents should be given the first opportunity for enrollment . I have discussed this issue with some of our regents in the past . Ga Tech is a good example as I believe their foreign student ratio is above 30 % . I know these students pay our of state tuition or are on schlorships but do we have a out of country tuition ? This is one of the reasons GA Tech struggles with their Athletic Fund raising is when these students graduate they go home with very little allegiance to their school . This is something that needs to be addressed . We need to educate our children and students first before we look elsewhere and if that happens the Funds will be their when needed . I remember when Ga Tech was is the SEC and their Stadium was full for every Game . That was the biggest mistake that was ever made and they will never fill up a stadium with most ACC schools such as Tech verse Wake Forrest . Their is no following of schools like Wake in Atlanta . Their is just to many options with all the professional teams . You create loyalty within our State not outside and when the regents change their outlook on this issue Tech might fill up a 90,000 seat stadium and make the money that SEC schools bring in .

Harlequin
Harlequin

If you have a special talent like running back kickoffs or covering punts, that can help, too! 

RDenney
RDenney

Some counties add points to final class grades for AP and Honors classes and some counties do not.  How do competitive Universities take this into account when deciding admission?  I teach in a county that adds 7 points to every honors/AP class but my children go to school in a county that adds no points to honors/AP classes.  I am wondering if the lack of additional points will be a disadvantage for my children?

UGA guy
UGA guy

@RDenney Since there is no state wide standard for grading scales in GA (unlike FL, SC and NC for instance), we have to deal with a wide range of grading scales with a number of subtle differences. When we calculate a GPA, we will add a full point to any AP or IB grade unless the school already adds points to the actual teacher grade (in which case we use the school's weighting). This is not perfect, but it is the best way we can try to have a standard GPA among our applicants.

Wesley Hamilton
Wesley Hamilton

I would be curious to hear Mr Graves'/UGA's take on the Making Caring Common Project's white paper, Turning the Tide, an effort endorsed by many top universities not named UGA, and decidedly at odds with UGA's tunnel vision of AP counting.

UGA guy
UGA guy

@Wesley Hamilton Our office has reviewed the Turning the Tide paper repeatedly, and we agree with what is said in it. We did not "endorse" it because we were not asked to be a part of the project, as most college admissions offices were not (I think that roughly 50 colleges were involved at most). When I communicate with students, I express a great deal of the same thoughts that Turning the Tide does, from having meaningful volunteer work, volunteering in your community and home, focusing on quality of activities and not quantity, de-emphasizing the importance of the SAT/ACT in comparison to 4 years in the classroom, and challenging yourself to the level you can handle, and not just taking AP courses for admissions. 


When we share information about our applicant pool, it is (somewhat) easy to give test score averages and GPA's, but rigor is more difficult. Saying a student is taking a "very competitive" course load is not easily understood by people, and some form of metric is often needed. We want students to challenge themselves in the classroom and be prepared for the rigors of the UGA classes, but we do not say "take X number of AP's!". At times, people will look at our statistics and think they need X, Y or Z when it comes to grades, courses or test scores, but we try to let them know that is not the case.


I hope this helps.

Jerry McGahagin
Jerry McGahagin

Does legacy matter at all? In other words if both parents went to UGA does that factor in at all?


UGA guy
UGA guy

@Jerry McGahagin No, legacy does not play a part in admissions at UGA. We ask a question about alumni on the app, but that is to provide data for the alumni office and not for decision purposes.

Wendy Melton
Wendy Melton

You cant get into UGA unless you know someone or your GPA is thru the roof.

Another comment
Another comment

The hardest groups to get into UGA is white females! My daughter did a survey her year. She got waitlist. She and another girl had an equal GPA and ACT score. The other girls took IB. My daughter got very sick freshman year so we switched from IB to AP and Dual Enrollment. Both took the equivalent of 9 classes. Both were two sport 4 year varsity letter students. My child held a job senior year as well. When I questioned UGA why my child was only on the wait list and the other girl was accepted, they claimed she only had 4 Advanced classes and the average student had 6. I responded that she had 9. The 5 were MOWR Honors classes that by legislation are suppose to be counted the same as IB and AP.

When my Daughter told other kids that she was waitlisted she found white boys from Marist and St. Puis she went to grade school with that had a point less on the ACT, a lower GPA and less than 6 AP classes accepted ( several of them, non legacies).

Then while she was waiting for her photo in the Marietta Daily Journal for all Cobb County Students she got the real kick in the face. The MDJ asked students to list their GPA, ACT /SAT scores and where they had been accepted for college. This was for Student Atheletes with a 3.5 GPA who were 2 sport varsity letterman ( women) their senior year ( but not necessarily college scholarship recruits. She saw black girls and boys with 22, 21, and 20 ACT scores from her high school ( who did not receive athletic scholarships to UGA, the only student Atheletes from her school went to HBCU's or Division II athletic programs). She was so mad.

So absolutely no one can tell me that UGA does not give preference first to white males, since more females apply. Then two to blacks and hispancs.

HigherEdPro
HigherEdPro

@Another comment well I'm glad you have it all figured out. 


But seriously, UGA does not give preference to white males or historically underrepresented populations. I'm just going to leave this here for your consideration (even though no one can tell you anything):


This year's entering freshman class had 460 students that identified as African-American (I'm going to focus on this group because this seems to be the group that gets you the most bent out of shape). So we're talking about 460 students...out of a incoming freshman class of more than 5,400 students. 


Now I know you're probably already thinking of how to completely discredit what I'm writing before I write it, but I ask you to hang with me for a few more paragraphs. 


So 460 out of 5400, why is it so far-fetched that of the 23,000 applicants, there were 460 African-American students who were qualified for admissions? On top of that, if so many minority students are receiving these imaginary extra points (because they are indeed strictly limited to your imagination), then why is the population of African American students at UGA as low as it is? By the misguided argument that African American students (or minority students in general) receive "extra points" in the admissions process, would it not make sense that the total minority student population would increase as a result? 


For the record, the total population for African American students hovers right around 8%. 


I say all of this to encourage you not to jump to conclusions about a process you are unsure about. Especially when that conclusion involves throwing an entire group of students under the bus that are already told they are "not qualified" or that "they just got in because they are [insert background here]" on a regular basis. 


MannyThinks
MannyThinks

@Starik @HigherEdPro @Another comment


Your method to fairness is to post statistics about admitted students who don’t make the admissions decisions. All the students did was apply. We don’t typically post statistics for adults like age salary,& job performance rating, so why would we do this to kids?

UGA has the lowest percentage of African American students in the SEC even though there are more African Americans in GA than any other state per the 2010 census. I’d recommend doing something more productive than blaming kids for going to college at UGA.


http://onlineathens.com/uga/2015-02-14/minority-student-populations-rise-uga#

Starik
Starik

@HigherEdPro @Another comment Why not post average grades and test scores for admissions for all the groups by gender, race and the part of Georgia they're from, along with AP courses taken?

Deborah Chasteen
Deborah Chasteen

@Another comment  Madam, I count 21 errors in your screed. Perhaps your daughter mirrors either your poor writing skills or your racism, but surely not both.

Michael2255
Michael2255

@Another comment It never ceases to amaze me that in a dominant white school (72%) with a majority female enrollment (57%), people will still claim to be a victim.

Archangel
Archangel

@Another comment It's not white girls who are not accepted, it's your daughter that's not accepted and you can't handle it. One glance at any UGA function which is majority white females, and it totally destroys your position.

lovely277
lovely277

@Another comment My African American daughter was accepted into UGA. She had a 31 ACT score, 3.9 gpa, honor graduate, 11 AP courses, was an AP scholar, part time job, played club soccer as well as with the high school. She was in several academic clubs and completed several hours of community service. She definitely didn't receive preferential treatment, she earned her spot. I can understand your frustration, however, your comment is offensive and diminishes the accomplishments of hard working students like my daughter.

Heru Uzza
Heru Uzza

75 percent of the students comes from Atlanta suburbs and starting in 1997 the school has been bringing in more students that wouldn't get in under normal circumstances to handle the budget crisis that they made from unnecessary building and that lower your academic standard but they say the school is growing. WRONG there is no standard when it comes to money.

MikeMahan
MikeMahan

I know I'm getting old when I don't even recognize where on campus that picture was taken.  I'm guessing its the Lumpkin Ave side of that new building behind the Tate Center, but I'm not sure.


MikeMahan
MikeMahan

BTW, I graduated in 1998.  That building didn't exist at that time.

DoubleDawg
DoubleDawg

It is mentioned in the notes below that UGA takes in about 2500 transfers per year.  I am curious how many transfer applications are received by UGA...

UGA guy
UGA guy

@DoubleDawg Generally, we receive about 4,500 or so transfer applications over the span of a year (summer, fall and spring terms). We enroll roughly 2,500 transfers a year, and about 75% of those admitted end up enrolling (thus making up the 2,500). 

johnrosy
johnrosy

Other than grades and test scores, do other factors such as extra-curricular activities count in admissions like weekend jobs, sports, clubs, Boy Scouts (Eagle) ?


MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@johnrosy I will send David an email on your question on the value of extracurriculars as I hear different things. 

A mom commented on my related Facebook post that she asked her school counselor how much her daughter's extensive activities -- class president, lead in the play and an active youth group member -- would help in admissions. The counselor's answer was, "Very little." 

I had a long talk three years ago with an admissions officer who told me colleges care most about the verifiables, grades, test scores, and course rigor.

While the submitted essays are read, she said they don’t count for much as it is impossible to verify whether students wrote them. She noted wealthy parents are now paying writers to “work” with their kids. (I know writers making a living writing college and grad school essays.)

She also said it’s hard to know what to make of a student who is class president or team captain. It may be no one else ran for class president or seniors on the team automatically become captain. So, she said it is hard to attach a lot of significance.

She told me mission trips are just about meaningless as they are commonplace and typically something affluent kids all do because their parents can afford to send them to Mexico or Honduras. And she said most of these trips now combine service and sightseeing because they have become  popular spring break events.

I also asked her about internships and she said these, too, are problematic as the internship can be in an uncle’s company or mom’s hospital.  

Now, there are kids whose honors – Eagle Scout, for example – reflect effort and vetting and there is a verifiable process. The admissions officer  said there are certain activities admissions officers know stand for something.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

Thanks to UGA's David Graves for answering reader questions on the blog. 

UGA guy
UGA guy

@MaureenDowney You are welcome. I thought it would just be easier to answer some of the questions here.

UGA guy
UGA guy

@MaureenDowney The day is almost over, and I hope I was able to help answer a few questions. Have a great rest of the day, and good luck with the twins (my daughter is a HS senior this year as well). I will leave the rest of the questions to you.

Your Teacher
Your Teacher

I'd love to know because I spend so much time doing them - what consideration do recommendation letters have?

UGA guy
UGA guy

@Your Teacher At UGA, we do read the recommendation letters in detail during our holistic review process, and here are a few suggestions- Since the student has already told us about their activities/sports/etc, you do not need to give us a detailed list of these. Focus on what they are like in the classroom, as a person, and how they interact with other students and with teachers. How are their work habits, and do they put in the time needed for the class? Remember, most (if not all) students will select a teacher that likes them, so it is not a surprise that almost all rec letters are positive. So again, focus on what they are like in the classroom, what they can offer a college campus, how hard they work, etc.

Joe in Co
Joe in Co

@UGA guy Could you talk about applications from transfer students? Until recently, I taught at a state college in south Georgia. I taught scores of students who weren't admitted to UGA initially only to do excellent work in their first year (or two) at our institution and cruise to transfer admission at UGA. These students have gone on to do amazing things (and are hardcore Bulldog fans). For all of these parents who believe the world ends when their child isn't granted admission, could you provide some tips for how they should approach a plan to transfer in later? 


And Go Dawgs!


JoeinCo (UGA, C/O 02)

UGA guy
UGA guy

@Joe in Co @UGA guy UGA enrolls about 2,500 transfers every year, and we focus only on college work during this process. My suggestion is to look at "where do you want to graduate from", not "where did I get admitted as a freshman". A student should focus first on core classes, and make sure the work will transfer to UGA to make sure they stay on track to graduate on time. As well, this is a time to work on study habits, as UGA courses will still be a step up challenge wise for many transfer students. The student needs to know we require at least one full year of college work post HS graduation to review a file, and to look at deadlines early.

C. Diff
C. Diff

College isn't for everyone. I worked 30 years in government, made a nice living for my family, sent one of my kids to UGA and the other to Georgia Southern (their choice) and now live on a comfortable pension . . . without a college degree.


ErnestB
ErnestB

@C. Diff


While I agree that college isn't for everyone, it should be noted that opportunities to enter the middle class through working in civil service or manufacturing aren't as available now as they were when you started.


To the article, the requirements to enter Ga Tech and UGA are far more difficult now than pre-Hope days.  Through in the fact that everyone is trying to use analytics to try to determine how to get into colleges today makes it all the more interesting.

JDinMarietta
JDinMarietta

I don't believe the standard answers from UGAs Mr. Graves. My son graduated from Walton with honors and a GPA of 3.7, ACT 32, took a bunch of AP classes, blah blah blah, and couldn't get in to UGA. Meanwhile on Facebook, I'm seeing friends children from teeny weeny high schools getting into UGA. No quotas from certain high schools Mr. Graves? I politely disagree

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@JDinMarietta Cases like your son's puzzle me. I know a similar example -- young woman with a 33 ACT and 3.6 GPA from a competitive and large Gwinnett school. My only thought: Is there a disconnect between the  ACT and GPA? When you look at correlation tables, a 32 or 33 ACT typically aligns with a GPA of  around 4.0. Do colleges see this misalignment and ding students for it? 


Here is one example of a correlation table between ACT score and GPA.

http://blog.prepscholar.com/act-gpa-conversion-percentile-match

VRSR
VRSR

@MaureenDowney @JDinMarietta There are also disadvantages to being from a rural school.  If  your school only offers 4 AP classes, that's not a lot of options.  You can only take what's offered.

Also, MOWR/dual enrollment is not a viable option for some rural students due to not having a college within close proximity. So their only advanced option is whatever AP classes are offered.  In the metro Atlanta area, MOWR is available to everyone, as best I can tell.

I would also like to point out that a lot of these not admitted to UGA or Tech stories are hearsay.  We don't really see what the admissions department sees. No one can really say that student A was admitted with a lesser GPA & test score than student B because we don't know their CORE class re-calculated GPA - unless you know all of their grades and classes and re-calculated the GPA.

UGA guy
UGA guy

@MaureenDowney @JDinMarietta  I am sorry that at times people don't believe me, but the reality is we do not have quotas for individual schools. Maureen, at times I see people not understanding that we use our calculated GPA, and not the GPA off a transcript, thus causing some issues. As well, when we say grades and curriculum come first over test scores, we mean it. a 3.6/3.7 is on the below our mid-range. As well, many times people think the number of AP courses is the key, not looking at what we say as far as a student challenging themselves in all core areas. As such, we at times see 5 AP courses taken, but all in the social studies area, while the other core areas are not as strong. I cannot comment on any specific case, but how we view things vs how a parent might view things are sometimes very different.

L. Robinson
L. Robinson

@VRSR @MaureenDowney @JDinMarietta So true and unfair to compare students who are attending the same high school even.  They are individuals with different strengths and interests.  At my son's HS, most began taking their AP classes as sophomores. Start later and a student may not have 9 under their belt.  And the only way I know who earned 4's or 5's, was through recognition by the college board.  This is when the student shared the info. Now, that is verifiable!!  Besides, aren't students applying to 10 schools on avg.  Bright kids won't be without a college home come fall!!  

PJ25
PJ25

I remember when a 2.2 and 1300 SAT would get you into night school at UGA.  Times have changed a bit. 

PJ25
PJ25

@Surelyyoujest @PJ25 That was 1993 just as the first class of Hope Scholarship kids came in, which quickly escalated the entrance requirements. 

TOJacket
TOJacket

It's much harder to get "out" of Tech than in.

TOJacket
TOJacket

My son was 3rd in his class in high school and it took him 5 years...and he did Tech calculus 1 in high school.

HotDawg
HotDawg

The easiest way in is to be a decent athlete.

Your academic requirements decrease considerably.

One academic requirement (particularly for football and basketball players), should be a Speech class.

"You know...", "I mean....", "uhh....", misuse of past and present tense, etc.

I would like to see this added, as a part of core curriculum in all high schools.

All students will benefit as they eventually enter the job market.

GSPInc
GSPInc

@HotDawg Funny how the UGA guy didnt respond to this one LOL. I knew some real idiots that shouldnt have graduated high school much less go to college get a degree 4 years later....because they were 6'4" 310 and could block a defensive end. 


Its truer than true.

UGA guy
UGA guy

@GSPInc @HotDawg I did not respond because I did not think I needed to respond. The assumption is that there are a large number of academically weak athletes at all colleges, which is a disservice to these students. I have worked with athletes in all sports who are at the top of their class, who are overall strong students and people, and some who have been awarded top academic scholarships at UGA or other colleges. Yes, there are a limited number of athletes at all who are not as strong as the average student, but to insult all athletes is wrong. I cannot speak about students from 20+ years ago, but I will say that we have a great group of students at UGA, including scientists, authors, musicians, athletes, teachers, innovators, etc.

Deborah Chasteen
Deborah Chasteen

@HotDawg  Shame on you. The players of these sports are exploited faster than a bottle of mid-price Scotch in your meaty little fingers.