Commonly asked questions about UT’s admissions process

Miguel Wasielewski

As UT-Austin’s executive director of admissions, I get many questions about the undergraduate admissions process. And understandably so, since many people want to learn more about the automatic admission process. Key elements of our admission process are mandated by state law, and we focus our efforts to recruit outstanding students in ways that meet these legislative requirements. 

What is the automatic admission law? 

A state law passed in 1997 guaranteed automatic admission to all public colleges and universities in Texas for students who graduate in the top 10% of their classes in Texas public high schools.

How does automatic admission work at UT, and why isn’t it actually “Top 10%” here?

After the law took effect, an increasing number of seats at UT were filled by automatically admitted students, limiting the University’s ability to admit other talented students who had not graduated in the top 10%. 

In response, the state Legislature revised the law in 2009. According to the statute, 75% of each incoming freshman class must be automatically admitted students. This allows the University to offer the remaining 25% to other talented students who are not automatically admitted. This means the number of automatically admitted students determines the total number of admissions offers. Due to increasing demand driven by the growth in the population of the state, this percentage level has decreased over time from the initial top 10%. For the incoming classes of 2019 and 2020, students graduating in the top 6% of their high school classes receive automatic admission. 

How do you determine what class rank will receive automatic admission?

UT determines this percentage two years in advance, allowing high school juniors to know where they need to rank in order to qualify for automatic admission. This means we forecast the number of students we can accommodate in the freshman class in order to provide the classes and resources they need to be successful and graduate on time. Factors we consider include the number of current students on campus, number of faculty available to teach, available classes and other resources such as housing and advising. To do this, we look at the predicted number of high school graduates across Texas and then the percentage of those students who, based on historical data, will likely choose to apply to UT.

What is holistic review? 

Each application is individually, holistically reviewed within the context of each individual applicant’s learning environment, personal experiences and all of the information submitted in the application. This includes academic coursework, grades and high school GPA, relevant activities, short answer and essay question submissions and any other materials, including letters of recommendation. 

All information considered in our holistic review is important to understanding a student’s preparation for success and the overall competitiveness of the application. Under holistic review, there is no single factor that will determine an admission decision — other than graduating in the top 6% of a Texas high school class. 

Why is it so competitive to get into UT?

Growth in the number of high school graduates and in interest from strong student applicants — almost 51,000 applications last year alone — has resulted in admissions becoming more competitive. Between 2015 and 2017, there was an almost 7% increase in the number of high school graduates in Texas. During that same time frame, we experienced an 18% increase in nonautomatic admission applications. 

Does UT-Austin consider legacy status for children of alumni?  

No. That is against state law.

Managing the admissions process at the public flagship University of Texas is a tremendous responsibility. Each day, I witness the transformative educational experience here on campus, and this institution’s ability to unlock student potential. My focus is to ensure we meet our public obligation to all Texans by recruiting and admitting talented students from across the state in accordance with the law and in meeting the high standards we have set.   

Miguel Wasielewski, Ph.D., is the executive director of the Office of Admissions at UT-Austin.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article reported that there was an almost 0.07% increase in the number of high school graduates in Texas, instead of 7%. The Texan regrets this error.