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Eight myths about getting into Georgia Tech: What applicants need to know


In writing about education policy for the AJC since 1997, one question from readers has become far more common: Why is it so dang hard to get into the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech?

Blame two factors: The HOPE Scholarship and the increasing cost of college. As Tech and UGA became more competitive as a result of elite students remaining in Georgia because of HOPE, the colleges themselves and their national standings improved.

In talking to  parents, I find mythologies have developed around who gets into Tech and UGA and why. So, I sent both campuses some of the common assumptions to see how many were on the mark. And Georgia Tech responded first.

These responses are from Rick Clark, director of undergraduate admissions at Georgia Tech, and Mary Tipton Woolley, senior associate director. Georgia Tech's early action deadline is Oct. 15 so share this blog with any high school seniors planning to apply to Tech.

The statements in bold are what I asked Tech to address:

It is easier to get into Tech if you live in rural Georgia. Conversely, it is harder to get into Tech if you  attend a metro powerhouse school, such as a Walton or a Lambert, from which many top students apply. 

We review all applicants based on the context of the high school they attend and the opportunities available to them both in and out of classes. Our goal is to enroll a geographically diverse freshman class from across Georgia. This was part of the impetus for the current Peach State Tour.

This year’s freshman class includes students from 89 Georgia counties. Currently, 62 percent of Georgia Tech’s in-state freshmen are from four metro Atlanta counties -- Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett.

More information on applicants from individual high schools in Georgia can be found on our Institutional Research and Planning website.

It is easier to get into Tech if you apply for an under-subscribed major and avoid the high demand ones such as computer science. Colleges claim your major doesn't matter, but, if so, aren't schools at risk of being overrun with finance and business majors? 

Georgia Tech does not admit students to a specific major as freshmen. However, we do consider students through the lens of the major they intend to pursue. We discuss whether or not a student’s high school courses, academic performance, activities and essays align with their intended major.

Since nearly 40 percent of our students change their major during their freshman year, we must ensure that any admitted student is capable of excelling in any of our programs of study. In order to create a well-rounded class, we are intent upon enrolling students with a variety of passions and talents both inside and outside the classroom.

Even though the ACT has four parts, science, math, reading and English, Tech admits based only on the math and English scores. So, a student may have a composite score of 33, but could be rejected because of lower scores on the math and English portions. So, students should not worry about the science and reading portions of the ACT and concentrate on the math and English.

We consider all four main sections of the ACT – English, math, science and reading. The writing section is optional but recommended. More information is available here.

Everyone knows someone in Georgia with a strong SAT/ACT score, a 4.0 GPA and lots of activities who did not get into Tech. Why would such a candidate be denied admission?

One of the most difficult parts of the admission process is understanding the competition that talented students face. With an applicant SAT average of 1350 and a GPA average of 3.99 on a 4.0 scale, the truth is most applicants could succeed on campus. Beyond academics, many students denied admission are clearly amazing people who have had an important impact on their family, school and community.

But, based on supply and demand, we simply cannot admit them all. There is no easy answer here. I am simply thankful that we have a very strong University System in Georgia. Students we are unable to admit based on capacity have tremendous opportunities at other institutions.

We do admit approximately 620 Georgians annually as transfer students. With a variety of transfer partnership pathways, we provide talented, committed students the opportunity to ultimately earn a degree from Tech, even if they do not begin here as freshmen.

Tech says it superscores SAT and ACT, but don't admissions counselors really look at all the scores?

Within the SAT or ACT, we look at the highest section score from any test date. This means the highest section scores we consider may come from multiple test dates. Our process is geared toward granting students the best possible opportunity to showcase their highest scores from either test and across any testing date.

Tech cares a lot about how a student performs on the SAT and ACT.

Testing is only one part of the evaluation. The applicant ACT composite average last year was 31, while the admitted ACT composite average was 32. The difference between students who are admitted or denied is negligible, and this shows the necessity of looking at a wide variety of factors in our admission review.

Class rank doesn't matter because while public schools still rank students, most private schools do not.

It is true that fewer and fewer schools rank. Some are public and some private. The biggest issue is that class rank is not uniform. Some take rigor into account, but many don't. The ones that do put rigor into ranking may not value the same thing we do at Georgia Tech.They also will often rank many students at the same point. For example, we've seen 14 students "sharing the rank" of No. 2 or No. 10 in the class.

Tech is admitting more foreign and out-of-state students as they pay full freight and that helps compensate for the deep cuts to higher ed by the Georgia Legislature. 

The admit rate for Georgia applicants this year was 39 percent. It was 26 percent for domestic non-residents and 11 percent for international students. We are committed to serving and educating students from our state as reflected by the fact that while students from Georgia generally comprise less than 20 percent of our freshman applicant pool, they make up 60 percent of our undergraduate population.

We are in the business of preparing students to become global leaders, entrepreneurs and problem solvers in a complex, diverse world. Creating a dynamic ethos on campus is part of that preparation. Students from abroad -- while only 10 percent of our undergraduate population -- provide an invaluable perspective, enrich discussions inside and outside the classroom, and enable our residents to gain a global vision and a network that will benefit them not only during their Tech career but long into the future.


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.