UT should create a mechanism for CAP students to communicate

Jimmy Counihan

Applying to and choosing a college is a strenuous process: compounding the difficulty of finding “the one” — the university that feels like home — is the increasingly common practice of transferring.

In my last year of high school, established friend circles dissolved in favor of groups built around where we’d be heading for college. However, when UT’s acceptance letter came and I was offered admission through the Coordinated Admission Program, there wasn’t a place for me in the Forty Acres friend group.

After I accepted my CAP offer, I moved to UT-Tyler, a place that was unfamiliar and four hours from home. Since I didn’t know anyone, I found myself starting from scratch in the friendship department. Luckily, I was able to make friends and quickly found footing among the East Texas natives.

However, telling my new friends I was a CAP student often led to looks of surprise and comments like, “Oh, so you’re leaving?” and, “I don’t really hang out with CAP students,” foreshadowing an end to invitations and further communication.

Coupled with being ostracized by four-year UT-Tyler students, locating people that are also in CAP and going to UT-Austin is often based on chance. Students at the six universities participating in CAP can struggle to find friends and belonging, which can lead to isolation and self-doubt.

Bella Tapia, an international relations and global studies sophomore and former CAP student said meeting other CAP students was frustrating and challenging, and that the only other CAP students she met were from random conversations she struck up in the hallway before class.

Tapia’s experience isn’t uncommon among CAP students. Due to the lack of resources, CAP students have to be creative in establishing their own networks of communication before they go to UT-Austin.

Muskan Umatiya, a radio-television-film sophomore and former CAP student, said being added to a Snapchat group was her main lifeline to other CAP students.

“The Snapchat group was started by someone I didn’t know, but I’m grateful they started it because otherwise I wouldn’t have met nearly as many people as I did,” Umatiya said. 

The lack of resources and mechanisms for communication between CAP students stems in large part from the fact that CAP students aren’t officially enrolled at UT-Austin. This means that UT-Austin does not currently sponsor any ways for CAP students to communicate with each other before they reach the Forty Acres.

“Each of the CAP institutions have policies that govern communications with (and among) their students,” said Mike Washington, UT associate director of admissions. “Any ‘official’ communication would need to be approved by the leadership at each of the institutions.”

However, Mike John Talamantes, the academic adviser for CAP students at UT-El Paso, said that UT-Austin would be in charge of this system.

“As UT CAP schools, we receive UT CAP agreements from the Admissions Office at UT-Austin,” Talamantes said. “We all follow their lead in UT CAP policies and procedures.”

Washington touched on this discrepancy in perceived responsibility by saying, “We have a role in administering the program, and (CAP schools) have a separate role in hosting
the participants.” 

But if UT-Austin is “administering” the program, surely they have flexibility over what comes up on CAP student’s MyStatus page and could include a “recommended” tab, with opportunities to communicate with fellow CAP students.

Washington acknowledged that “UT-Austin has an official communications portal (MyStatus) that informs CAP students of all official notifications from UT-Austin.” So why doesn’t UT-Austin recommend participation in an opt-in directory or even a Facebook group, which they have for incoming UT-Austin students?

The least UT-Austin and participating CAP schools can do is create a way for CAP students to connect with one another instead of making them start their first year of college alone and in an unfamiliar place, with only the promise of admission.

By helping CAP students come together and make the most of their time at participating CAP universities, they’ll have a higher chance of successfully joining the herd on the Forty Acres. 

Counihan is a government sophomore from Austin.