By Rajkamal Rao
|Image Courtesy: The University of Texas Austin|
The University of Texas in Austin, called UT, is the best Tier-1 public university in Texas and one of the best in the world. It has consistently made the list of eight "Public Ivy" schools. Public Ivy is a term coined by author Richard Moll in his 1985 book, Public Ivies: A Guide to America's Best Public Undergraduate Colleges and Universities to refer to universities in the United States that are said to provide an Ivy League collegiate experience at a public university price.
Boasting over 4,800 graduate assistants including more than 1,800 research assistants, UT has earned Carnegie Foundation's classification as an institution that engages in "Very high research activity." Four Nobel laureates are affiliated with UT.
The university's Engineering, Computer Science, and Business programs are consistently ranked in the top-10 in the country, better than similar programs at Ivy League schools. In terms of prestige among the country's top public universities, UT is nearly in the same league as the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Michigan, and the University of Virginia. With the city of Austin's standing as an effective alternative to Silicon Valley and numerous high-profile multi-billion dollar investments from Big Tech, UT's prestige has dramatically increased in recent years.
How selective is UT?
The numbers speak for themselves. From 2013 to 2018, applications to UT Austin rose from 38,000 to 51,000 for about the same size of the incoming Freshman class of 10,200.
By Texas law, 75% of these 10,200 seats are given out to high school students who rank in the top 6% of their class. No other factor matters but the class rank, which is computed based on the relative weighted average GPA.
The remaining 2,550 seats are awarded on a holistic basis - where every aspect of the student's profile is considered. Students from all over the world apply to win one of these coveted seats. If you subtract the 7,500 direct admit applications from the 51,000 total applications, this amounts to a selectivity rate of 5.8% for the holistic pool. For 2021, the total number of applications increased to 57,500 but the number of seats remained the same. This brought the acceptance rate for the holistic pool to about 5%, tighter than Harvard or Yale.
What about majors?
When you apply to UT, you also have to choose your major. Certain majors - like engineering, computer science, and business - are extremely popular with students. With demand ever so high, admission to these majors is highly competitive. Automatic admits are given two choices for majors, but it is not always clear if the second choice is automatically granted if the first choice is denied.
Majors come with some restrictions. In general, a double major requires 140-150 credit hours total, compared to 120 for a straight single major. UT prefers that you complete all these in four years.
For example, in the College of Engineering, students have to complete 30 semester hours before they can apply for a double major. Click here for details.
UT provides students numerous opportunities in the arts - architecture and design, music, theater art.
Students who are interested in hot areas, such as Video Game development, or media/visual arts, such as Computer Animation as seen in movies, music videos, and commercials, should recognize the hybrid nature of course content, often spanning multiple colleges within UT. The university offers numerous choices to train in such topics anyway. For example, prospective students interested in pursuing Video Game Development should first apply to another major such as Arts and Entertainment Technologies (College of Fine Arts), Computer Science (College of Natural Sciences), or Radio-Television-Film (Moody College of Communication). Once accepted, the students can apply to the Game Development and Design Program. Another option is to pursue training across colleges, like the Bridging Disciplines Program in Digital Arts and Media.
How competitive are the Honors Programs? What's the difference between CBHP & McCombs?
Students are also invited to apply to Honors Programs at the University, College, or Department levels. Honors programs offer additional benefits to students, such as smaller class sizes, the ability to register early for courses, or designated housing (the Quad). Rules regarding admission to Honors programs vary by college. Admission is competitive.
The only times you can get into CBHP is as an entering Freshman, or in rare cases, as a Sophomore. Demonstrating the high bar of CBHP, McCombs business students say that their Freshman GPA should be 3.95 to apply for admission as a Sophomore. This is because the two business programs, although sharing the same building, are vastly different.
CBHP is a major in itself; McCombs is not. CBHP courses are taught using the case method of instruction, just like at Harvard or Darden (the University of Virginia). CBHP courses are, by design, intense. For example, the Freshman MIS course involves long-form projects that require mastery in Excel, knowledge of R programming, SQL, and Tableau; the McCombs equivalent is less rigorous. CBHP courses are open only to Honors students, but CBHP students could take McCombs courses at will. Students from the two programs intersect at University and Business School events, such as recruiting and networking events, but otherwise, largely remain excluded from each other.
At McCombs, you may only pursue a single major within the business school. Students enter the school as an undeclared business major. This is not an inferior choice. Unless you are applying to the Canfield Honors program, you have to complete 30 credits and demonstrate your competence before you are accepted into a major of your choice. Remember, you can change your major any number of times.
At the Canfield Business Honors Program (CBHP), you can pursue a double major in business. McCombs students can however pursue a double major outside of the business school, such as in History, or Biology. Most McCombs students pursue a major and a minor, such as a major in Finance and a minor in Accounting.
The College of Natural Sciences is more generous. It allows students multiple chances to apply to their Honors program. "Current UT students and transfer students can apply to any of the CNS honors programs before their fourth long semester of college. See each program's website for application instructions." Please look at FAQ #4 here. For the undergrad class of 2026, there were 3,000 applicants for the Polymathic Honors Program within the College of Natural Sciences. Only 150 were offered a spot.
UT offers two admission deadlines - the priority deadline (Nov 1) and the regular deadline (Dec 1). Students who meet the priority deadline are offered a decision no later than Feb 1, although frequently, the school continues to send out admission offers even earlier. Regular deadline students will hear about their application before March 1.
What happens after you apply?
If you're an automatic admit and you apply before the priority deadline, you will generally hear from UT within a few days that you have been admitted to UT. But UT will likely not confirm admission to the major of your choice because this evaluation is through a holistic process. It is entirely possible for automatic admits to be denied admission to both their chosen majors. If your first and second choice majors are less-in-demand Liberal Arts areas, you are more likely to be awarded admission to one of those majors right away.
The best-case scenario is if you get into all three: UT, your first-choice major, and the Honors program of your choosing.
The next scenario is that you get into UT but your first-choice major is denied. This can be disappointing for those set on pursuing a high-in-demand major such as computer science or business. For its part, UT provides you with a list of majors that are still available. Some students may accept a close relative (Applied Math instead of Computer Science) in the hopes of maintaining very high grades in the Freshman year and requesting an inter-departmental transfer. Such transfer cases are very competitive. Generally, students with UT GPAs above 3.9 have a chance.
Students denied their first-choice major can always appeal the decision to UT. Unlike private universities, UT, as a public institution, offers students a rigorous appeals process. But success during appeals is rare because the burden is on the student to prove that the original application was so replete with errors (wrong grades, incorrect test scores, inaccurate recommendation letters) that the student deserves a second look. You can use the MyStatus page to appeal your decision.
Students denied their choice of major need to confront the real possibility of not attending UT at all, electing to enroll in another university where they at least have their favorite major locked in. They can then hope to transfer to UT for the Sophomore year, but admission to your favorite major is still extremely competitive. More than 1,500 students transfer, so you could get lucky.
The next scenario is that you're denied admission to UT, but you're offered a spot in the university's Coordinated Admissions Program (CAP). CAP makes it possible for freshman applicants to UT Austin to begin their studies at another UT System university, such as UT Arlington. After completing CAP requirements during their freshman year at UT Arlington, students automatically transfer to UT Austin to complete their undergraduate studies. Students must examine CAP requirements at their system school, UT's core curriculum requirements and their high school AP record to decide which high school courses to transfer for college credit. If you have already claimed credit, it has been written to your student record and cannot be changed. CAP admissions are restricted to Liberal Arts majors. It is not realistic to expect CAP students to transfer to business, computer science, or engineering. You have to compete for those precious spots just like any other transfer student.
The worst scenario is that you're denied admission to UT. If this happens, you must learn to move on for the Freshman year and enroll somewhere else. Maintain excellent grades and try for transfer admission to the UT Sophomore year.
Core Curriculum: What courses will I take at UT if I enroll?
All students pursuing an undergraduate degree at the university must complete the 42-hour statewide core curriculum. [Examine this link to see a detailed list of all core courses for any Texas institution].
Core courses may be chosen from a large menu of classes offered under broad topic areas such as English Composition, Humanities, History, Government, Social Sciences, Math, Natural Sciences, and the Arts. Students can generally proceed to take classes in their major only after completing core curriculum requirements - and will do so after three semesters, assuming 15 credits a semester.
Based on a state law passed in 2015, UT is more generous in awarding college credit for AP/IB courses taken in high school. Work with UT's Testing and Evaluation Services department to apply for credits transfer. Here's a complete map between AP courses and UT approved courses.
Can I take community college credits to transfer to UT?
If you want to meet core curriculum requirements before you even start at UT by taking classes during the summer, you can do so by registering at your favorite community college. You will save money because community colleges are much less expensive than taking courses at UT.
Suppose you live in the Fort Worth area and want to complete an Economics course that you will be forced to take at UT to satisfy the core curriculum. Suppose also that Economics, as a topic, is not crucial to your college or post-college career. You may then fulfill the Economics requirement by completing a course at the Tarrant County Community College and have your credits transferred to UT.
To do this, go to UT's Transfer Credit website, select Tarrant County Community College in the "Sending Institution" dropdown, and select "Economics" in the UT Department dropdown. Leave the UT course number blank. Click on Initiate Search and you will get a list of courses that you can take at TCCC that can transfer to UT.
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