USF has steadily increased its difficulty of admission for years, but now, officially a preeminent Florida university, — joining only Florida and Florida State — it’s harder than ever to become a Bull.
In 2007, USF’s Tampa campus was encouraging first-time student applicants to have at least a 3.71 GPA weighted GPA. As of 2018, the university, now unified, will be seeking students that have around a 4.2 weighted GPA.
Dr. Paul Dosal, the Vice President for Student Affairs and Student Success, said the rising freshman requirements stem from a 2009 “Student Success Initiative.” He said the goal was to help raise the USF graduation and retention rates from slightly below average to above average in order to quality for the Association of American Universities.
“As part of that Student Success Initiative, we’ve been focused more on recruiting and enrolling college ready students,” Dosal said. “We wanted to look for students who are prepared to graduate on time with the degree of their choice and minimal levels of debt. Partly as a result, we’ve been driving our admission standards higher.”
High school grades and SAT scores are not the only factors taken into account, according to Dosal. The specific types of classes that students took will directly reflect in the assessment of their applications. By students just taking higher-level courses in high school, such as AP or IB, their chances of admittance to USF increase.
Though concerns of a lack of diversity when looking for “college ready” students are valid, Billie Jo Hamilton, Associate Vice President of Enrollment Planning & Management, said it will not be the case .
“I think to some extent there’s an assumption that low income students don’t meet our admissions requirements,” Hamilton said. “I would say we have been very effective in enrolling first generation and low income students for many years, and we’ll continue to enroll those students even if we have increased our admissions standards.”
Statistically speaking, USF’s diversity is on the rise despite the more difficult admission requirements. The cost of tuition at USF has also stayed relatively stable over the past 5 years despite the rise in prestige.
In 2017, The Education Trust recognized USF as a top performing university in closing the achievement gap between White and African-American students, and the university is among the nation’s best in Pell grant graduation rates, a program to aid low income college students.
“One of the helpful things is that we’ve closed the achievement gap,” Dosal said. “We are a university where our diverse student body is performing academically well. They’re graduating at the same rate as our white students, and you don’t often see that across the nation. There are typically gaps and differences.”
According to Dosal, USF purposely raised the requirements at a slow rate as not to alarm those looking to apply. He said to portray USF as an intimidating school was never the intention.
“We never wanted to raise our admission standards so high that we would also see a significant drop in enrollment,” Dosal said. “We are also committed as an institution to meet educational benefits of diversity. We always look to recruit a diverse class of students. Remarkably, and significantly, we have done both of these things.”
With such rigorous admission requirements, the future for attending USF may require transfer programs. According to Hamilton, gateways have been setup to allow students to receive their associate degrees elsewhere, and transfer into USF under a later date.
“We have tap ways for students to enroll here if they’re not admissible for their freshman year,” Hamilton said. “Students can go to (Hillsborough Community College) or St. Pete College and get on a national pathway to come here after their AA degree. That’s a feasible pathway for students who may not be ready.”
Transfer students traditionally have an easier time being accepted to universities than freshman students, with USF only looking for 2.5 GPAs from low level transfer students. Last year, over 3,800 transfer students joined the USF tampa campus alone. As USF’s GPA requirements are predicted to continue rising, these gateway programs may prove very beneficial.
“I was concerned when we started to raise admission standards that we’d lose diversity, or make applying here seem unattainable, but we have done a remarkable job in maintaining diversity on our campus the same time we’ve raised admission standards and promoted student success,” Dosal said. “We want USF to keep striving for excellence and be a place current students can be proud of once they graduate.”