It’s getting tougher for freshmen to enter the University of North Florida, mainly because the competition for first-year spots is getting stiffer.
In recent years, all of Florida’s public universities have increased the minimum grade-point average requirement for admission. At the same time, the universities have received applicants with higher GPAs and college test scores than ever before. Increased competition means, in coming years, the average-performing students will be pushed out of public universities and instead might opt for private universities or state colleges, where admission is open to anyone with a high-school diploma or GED.
In 2011, a change in state law required public universities, including UNF, to raise the minimum GPA for admission from 2.0 to 2.5.
At UNF, while 2.5 is the minimum, the average student accepted this academic year held a 3.94 GPA and a 27 score on the ACT. That compares to five years ago when the average incoming freshman held a 3.73, said Chad Learch, UNF’s interim admissions director.
At Florida State University, the minimum admission requirements are a 3.0 and a 26 to 30 on the ACT or 1780 to 1980 on the SAT. However, often it takes a 3.9 to really be considered, admissions director Janice Finney said.
Finney said there was a time when FSU required a 24 to 28 on the ACT, but when the university began accepting higher-performing students, it resulted in higher graduation and retention rates.
At the University of Florida, the competition among freshmen has been high for many years. Freshmen admitted there have held a 4.1 to 4.4 GPA and a 1780 to 2020 on the SAT or 26-31 on the ACT for the past three years.
University officials hope a move toward higher admissions requirements will lead to attracting a higher-caliber student, someone focused on academics and someone who will graduate in four or five years.
The push for a high-quality student comes at a time when state lawmakers are mulling a change where funding to universities will be based on how many students finish.
Even local private colleges are following the tougher-admissions trend.
The competition for admission at Jacksonville University has gotten so tough that, for the first time, the school has wait-listed 50 students. One admissions official said private and public schools alike are clamoring for great students.
And in an academic environment where almost all students admitted will have a high GPA, universities are looking for freshmen who show outstanding volunteer work, leadership in extra-curricular activities and other areas — in short, young people who will end up making the universities proud to call them alumni.
“Every institution has that in the back of their mind,” said Marisol Preston, the chief admissions officer at JU. “We want our students to be successful young adults and bringing in someone who wouldn’t is just setting someone up for failure.”
At Edward Waters College, officials changed the required GPA from 2.0 to 2.5 four years ago. Part of EWC’s admission requirements is for freshmen to take the ACT or SAT, although the college hasn’t set a minimum score. There’s a chance the college will require a set score in the near future, said admissions director Joel Walker, because EWC wants to shed its reputation of taking only local, low-performing students.
“We will no longer accept the bottom of the barrel in terms of students,” Walker said. “When I go to Stanton (College Prep), when I go to Mandarin (High), I want the creme of the crop.”