Alternate admissions policies serve as effective measures to attain elite education

Emily Vernon

As the May 1 deadline approaches, overzealous high school seniors itching for the thrill of college will finalize their decision of where they will spend the next four years of their life. Those students who wish to attend UT as part of the class of 2020 will only receive automatic admission if they are in the top 8 percent of their graduating high school class. For the class of 2021, this rate will be lowered to 7 percent.

Unlike Texas A&M, which allows a lower-ranked student with excellent test scores automatic admission, UT does not offer such alternatives. However, UT does offer programs such as PACE, a co-enrollment program where students take classes at both ACC and UT their freshman year, and CAP, a program that offers freshmen the opportunity to attend another one of the UT system schools and then transfer to UT-Austin their sophomore year.

These programs allow qualified students an alternative path to full admission after their freshman year. They are great for those who know they want to attend UT full-time but fell a few percentage points below the automatic cut-off. For a student like myself that came from a graduating high school class of about 1,000, this was an invaluable path to UT.

Too often, students on campus harbor negative and incorrect assumptions about these programs and the students that  are participating in them. Too often, students from prestigious schools look down on those who decide to attend a college not in the top ranks, perhaps finding solace in the false belief that how you do in high school determines how you will do in life.

But life is more complicated than that. It is okay to attend a school that is not the best public university in the state, and it is okay to transfer to a different school after a year somewhere else. What matters is that we are all choosing to get an education, not how we do it.

Cassandre Alvarado, director of the PACE program at UT and a clinical assistant professor in the College of Education, said the program is a unique avenue for talented students.

“We benefit by having additional pathways for highly talented students to enter the University,” Alvarado said. “We have had a lot of students who have found their way into their major, into various activities and leadership organizations on campus … students have been happy and successful in their transition.”

These alternative admission programs allow students coming out of high school to work towards a goal. In the perfect world, everybody would be immediately admitted to the college they wish to attend and nobody would fail or drop out. But as college students know, this is not always the case. We cannot continue to perpetuate the idea that automatic admission to a top school is the only thing that will set individuals up for complete success. Opting for alternative admissions programs still give students the potential to become full time UT students and should not be stigmatized by current or prospective students.

Vernon is PACE freshman from the Woodlands. Follow her on Twitter @_emilyvernon_.