Parents of current high school students will not be surprised by today’s AJC story on the rising caliber of students admitted to Georgia’s top public campuses. Most parents have a story about a great candidate from their local high school who was rejected by UGA or Tech. And there are many alums of both schools who admit they would never be admitted under today’s tougher standards.
Applications for UGA’s freshman class have increased by more than 50 percent since 2003. Tech’s applications have increased by 48 percent over the last four years.
As the competition for spots at the premier campuses has intensified, students are upping their academic games, enrolling in more AP classes. Parents of high school freshmen and sophomores ought to advise their children to read today’s AJC story so they better understand the risks of waiting until their junior year to get serious about their high school studies.
In fact, according to the story, middle school students ought to read the AJC story as well.
College admission pressures will not subside in Georgia, which will continue to see an increase in high school applicants. According to AJC reporter Laura Diamond, undergraduate enrollment in Georgia grew by 77 percent from 1999 to 2009, compared to 38 percent nationally. She reports that Georgia’s high school graduates are projected to increase by 22 percent over the next decade, compared to 10 percent for the nation.
She says: High-schoolers have to set goals and prepare earlier than ever if they are to have their choice. Some public and private middle school counselors begin talking with students and parents as early as sixth grade about what courses must be taken in high school to be attractive to competitive colleges.
This year’s freshmen at the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State and Georgia College & State universities shattered records for SAT scores and high school GPAs. That continued a steady rise that has altered the state’s higher education landscape, making a slot at Tech or UGA hotly competitive and fueling huge growth and higher standards at other public universities.
Georgia Tech’s freshmen earned an average 1378 on the math and verbal SAT — up almost 50 points from five years ago. They took more than three college-level Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses by the end of junior year in high school and three more during senior year.
“It’s getting a little ridiculous,” said Rick Clark, director of undergraduate admissions at Georgia Tech. “The caliber is going up but the number of students we admit isn’t.”
The rising quality at top colleges has caused a trickle down effect. Enrollment at Georgia Southern and Kennesaw State universities has increased and the student talent has improved. Kennesaw State freshmen earned an average 1,074 on the math and verbal SAT — a gain of 52 points over the last decade.
Joshua Beane graduated from Grayson High in Gwinnett County with strong enough marks to compete for a spot at UGA. Freshmen there scored an average 1,254 on the SAT and had an average GPA of almost 3.8. But Beane didn’t apply.
“I just didn’t want to deal with it when there are a bunch of other colleges,” Beane said. “Smart people are going to those other colleges, too.”
He focused on less expensive campuses and those where he was likely to get in. He’s now a freshman at Kennesaw State.
The state’s HOPE scholarship has caused much of the rise. Prior to this fall, the scholarship paid all tuition at public colleges if students maintained a 3.0 GPA. The rules changed this academic year and now 10 percent of recipients get a full tuition award. The rest get a scholarship that covers most of tuition.
Before HOPE started in 1993, less than one-quarter of students who scored 1,400 or higher on the SAT stayed in state for college, according to the University System of Georgia. After, about three-quarters did.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog