11 Tips to Maximize your UT-Austin Admissions Chances
1. Start Apply Texas and your essays early.
The biggest mistake that applicants make is procrastinating. Last minute efforts never produce your best efforts. It shocked me when I worked for UT the number of otherwise highly qualified applicants who submitted sloppy essays.
More than half of all UT applicants apply during the last two weeks in November. Don't make your senior year any more stressful than it needs to be.
2. Assemble a small college application army.
It is hard to go about your college applications alone. Especially if you are applying to more than eight universities, it can be difficult to balance deadlines, essay prompts, and application logins.
Work with one or two trusted people to help with your essays like a teacher or current college student. Create a schedule and timeline to complete your applications. Parents can help juggle these responsibilities, but it is important that the application process be student-centered.
3. It's never too late to improve your college resume.
Sometimes, students exiting junior year feel that they can't improve your resume. Consider spending your summer productively by working, volunteering, or participating in summer camps. There is always room for improvement. Admissions reviewers don't necessarily care what you do as long as you commit quality time to an activity or two.
4. Submit an expanded resume.
It always surprised me when I worked for UT how few students submitted the recommended expanded (paper) resume. Apply Texas hasn't been updated in over ten years. It can be hard to include and describe all of your activities. UT allows you to submit a paper resume that can be as long as you want. Take advantage!
5. Establish a relationship with your high school counselor.
Your high school counseling staff can be a great ally in your college search and application process. They may know of scholarships, summer programs, or lesser known programs and universities that may be a great fit for you.
Especially if you attend a large public high school, consider making the effort to get to know your assigned counselor. Even though they are busy, if you make an earnest effort to get to know them or help them out, it may help limit the stress of your college search.
6. Choose a first-choice major you actually want.
UT admits applicants based on their choice of college or school. They do not admit students to the university. It is important to choose your major wisely because UT is making it more difficult for students to change their major at summer orientation and after you enroll.
UT is trying to increase its four-year graduation rates. Major changes sometimes puts students behind.
It is also important to choose and stick with your first-choice major because a major review criteria is your "fit for major." You should craft your entire application arguing why you deserve a spot in your desired program.
7. Don't get lost in the details.
Especially on Reddit and College Confidential, I see students drowning in the minutiae. They worry about marking down 45 versus 50 volunteer hours, whether to take AP Chemistry rather than honors, or minor errors they made on their essay and resume submissions.
College admissions is about the big picture. Reviewers will likely spend no more than ten minutes reviewing your application. They are looking for an overall portrait of who to admit. By focusing on the details, you are guaranteeing yourself more stress.
Don't overedit | resist perfectionism
Students often hesitate and second-guess themselves before submitting. I sometimes receive frantic emails weeks later from students who I assumed had already completed their applications. After our third or fourth draft of detailed and intensive editing and feedback, the essays are polished and enjoyable. There may be imperfections, but they are ready to submit.
Occasionally, students overedit to the point that their finished essays look substantially worse than the previous drafts. Students edit out their voice or add new information that subtracts from the overall application.
Plan II Honors specifically warns against this tendency. “Take your time, but beware over-editing . . . Although you want to write with care, you should not spend weeks or months rewriting essays. There is little to gain after the third draft. Don’t delay the submission of your application to write the fourth, or fifteenth, version of your essays. Overwritten and over-edited essays are never the best essays.”
8. Focus on what you can control
I dedicate a chapter to this approach in my book "Your Ticket to the Forty Acres: The Unofficial Guide for UT Undergraduate Admissions."
Applicants, families, and even high school counselors focus on the wrong things. I hear about how challenging and competitive one’s school is or disbelief at how college admissions is much more selective than a generation ago. People vent about state laws they can’t control. They wish the process could be different. College admissions isn’t fair or predictable, but neither is life.
Factors outside of an applicant’s control:
• The competitiveness of the other applicants in the pool
• State and federal laws
• The number of applicants for a given major
• The needs of the university
• How admissions committees measure and calculate the desirability of an applicant
• Essay topics
• The competitiveness of one’s high school
• Biographical factors like race or income
• How UT handles nonranking schools
• Preferences for in-state versus out-of-state applicants
• The mood of your reviewer
This is not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. There are many things that you cannot change. Obsessing over things like the Top 10 percent Rule or how UT doesn’t consider the competitiveness of your school takes away from focusing on the factors one can control. I find people spend way more of their time discussing what they can’t change rather than what they have some power over. It may be cathartic to complain, but you will wear thin the patience of your admissions representatives and high school counselors.
Factors within your control
• Your essays
• Your expanded resume
• Who writes your recommendation letters
• Your desired majors or universities
• Where you choose to apply
• How you spend your summers and weekends
• Your academic course selection
• Engaging with admissions professionals or attending recruitment events
• Seeking out resources in your school and community
• Your activities outside of class
• When you apply
• Your attitude, effort, and expectations
9. College admissions isn't life and death
At age seventeen or eighteen, undoubtedly receiving your college admissions decisions during the spring of your senior year will be the most important milestone of your life. Students often get so fixated on one school that they lose sight of the bigger picture.
What seems like the most important thing in the world right now may seem less so a few years in the future.
One of my favorite books on college admissions and the return on investment for a university education is Frank Bruni's "Where You Go Is Not Who You Will Be." He argues convincingly that how you approach college and why you choose your pursuits is more important than where you go.
Most importantly, don't let college admissions - an uncertain, unpredictable, and often unfair process - define who you are.
10. Submit it and forget it.
Once you submit your application, there is nothing to do but wait. You are going to stress yourself out going back and reading your essays and inevitably finding errors or areas of improvement. Sometimes, students ask what they can do to improve an already-submitted application.
The answer? Nothing.
11. Be flexible
It is important to keep an open mind to the universities you are willing and excited to attend. It matters less where you go than what you do once you arrive. There are over four thousand universities in the United States, but unfortunately the public gets fixated on the same forty or fifty that dominate rankings like US News and World Report.
Especially in Texas, it is the dream of tens of thousands of students to be Longhorns. The reality is the university can admit only about 15,000 students each year enrolling a class between 7,000-8,000.
You cannot control your admissions outcomes. You can control your control your attitude and outlook for the future.