Students experience unique perceptions of CAP program

2012-01-23_Bebegol_Shariatmadar_portrait_Zachary

Zachary Strain

Petroleum engineer sophomore Bebegol Shariatmadar used the CAP program to transfer to UT. A Houston native, Shariatmadar studied at UTSA for a year before completing the CAP program.

Jessica Lee

In high school, Gramm Klein felt that The University of Texas at Austin was the perfect school for him. What better place to major in sports management? UT has a multi-million dollar sports program, a highly acclaimed football team and its own ESPN network.

So when Klein received a letter from the university offering him admission into UT if he could successfully complete the CAP program, he accepted.

The CAP program offers freshman applicants a second chance to get into UT. Students who accept the requirements of the program must attend one of the participating UT system universities for a year. They are then guaranteed admission to UT Austin if they achieve at least a 3.2 GPA after completing 30 hours of UT-approved coursework. The program is offered only to Texas residents.

Klein is now in his second semester at UT San Antonio, but his plans have since changed: Klein has decided that UTSA is the place for him.

Klein soon realized that though UT’s sports teams had the hype, UTSA offered him the ability to be a part of something that was just beginning. UTSA’s Roadrunner football team was launched in 2011.

“I cannot tell you how excited I am about UTSA for my next 4 years,” Klein said. “UTSA is on the brink of greatness; there is no doubt about it. It’s going to take some hard work to get there. That’s what makes it special for me. To have a large part in making that happen, establishing traditions and a fan base for our athletics is the ultimate opportunity for me.”

Klein said that though he once believed UT was the school for him, he has since realized that it was more his family’s dream than his.

“Family had a huge impact on that ‘dream’ perception,” Klein said. “My dad, grandfather and grandmother all went to UT. They undoubtedly had the greatest influence on my feelings about UT.”

But Klein is the exception. According to UTSA freshman advising director Joan Tsacalis, most students who fulfill their CAP requirements transfer to UT Austin. Tsacalis estimates that about 47 percent of CAP students at UTSA meet the requirements.

Tsacalis urges the students in the program to plan for the long term because though many have benefitted from the CAP program, it has its disadvantages.

“If a student has her sights set on a very competitive major at UT, like business, engineering or architecture, she has to remember that just because she transfers back to UT, she is not guaranteed her dream major because each major sets its own competitive admissions requirements beyond the general university requirements,” Tsacalis said.

Students who successfully complete the CAP requirements are only offered guaranteed admission into the liberal arts or natural science colleges. Those wishing to pursue other majors must apply to the appropriate college upon CAP completion.

For petroleum engineering sophomore Bebegol Shariatmadar, the CAP program was just a stepping stone to get into the university she really wanted to attend.

“UTSA was a great motivator for me,” Shariatmadar said. “It made me appreciate UT more because I had to work harder [at UTSA] because I was not there to have fun.”

But Shariatmadar feels that the CAP program still has some improvements to make.

“I didn’t like how I had to take a bunch of filler classes that I already had AP credit for just because there were very specific requirements,” Shariatmadar said.

Given the chance to do it all over again, Shariatmadar said she would have rather attended college in her hometown, Houston, to save money by living her freshman year at home. She genuinely enjoyed her time at UTSA, but felt she could have transferred into UT without the help of the CAP program.

The requirements for transferring to UT outside of the CAP program are much less strict. Students must be high school graduates or have earned a GED and have 30 hours of transfer credit from another university. Unlike the CAP program, those applying to transfer are not guaranteed admission. Klein encourages those planning to accept admission into the CAP program to tour the UT system school they plan to attend.

“A lot of CAP students foolishly do not visit UTSA because of their disillusioned UT dreams, which is a shame,” Klein said.

At the UTSA campus alone, Tsacalis reports that the CAP population is somewhere between 800 and 1000 students. CAP students represent about three percent of the UTSA student body.

“Our surveys indicate that 98% of CAP students are satisfied with the guidance they receive at UTSA,” Tsacalis said. “I’ve been here since the first CAP cohort, I think in 2001, and I’ve always enjoyed working with these students and helping them achieve their goals.”