16 Common Applicant Errors and Misconceptions

1. Below average test scores? Apply anyways!

I see a lot of students discouraged that their test score is below average from the typical admit. If you are within the 75%/25% admitted student range for UT and other universities, you should consider applying. Admitted UT students score between a 26 and 31 on the ACT with the average around a 29. Average means 50% of all admitted students score 29 or lower.

2. Top 7% does not guarantee your first-choice major

Years ago, UT used to guarantee admission even to competitive majors like Business if you were in the top 3 or 4%. Since at least 2011, this hasn't been the case. If you are in the top 7% and want UGS or Liberal Arts, you shouldn't have issue gaining admission. Regardless of what major you are applying or how strong your academics are, you need to put forward your best effort.

3. UT-Austin does not superscore

Many universities will take the highest Math subscore from one date and the Reading from another and create a "super" test. UT doesn't do this, and they recently stopped considering the writing section. Instead, they will take the single best testing date that most helps your admissions chances. There's no disadvantage to sending all of your scores, so don't spend time debating which ones to send when your time is better spent improving your resume and essays.

4. UT-Austin doesn't consider the type or competitiveness of high school you attend

I hear students and sometimes parents say "my school is number one in the district!" or number 50 nationwide. UT doesn't care. They only look at your class rank. Except for students from underserved urban and rural communities where few of their peers attend college, reviewers aren't concerned with how academically successful your peers are.

5. For most applicants, your second choice major doesn't matter

Unless you're applying to Engineering where you should select two engineering disciplines, your second choice rarely comes into play. Some applicants who select Fine Arts as a second choice may be invited to audition. The second choice major is an anachronism, and there has been discussions for years for removing it. Nowadays, it is mostly used so students can apply to multiple honors programs, or a first choice that differs from their honors desires.

6. UT only looks at your class rank, not weighted or unweighted GPA

There is no perfect way to evaluate the transcript, and UT only looks at your class rank. This goes for all Texas public universities, and the policy ties back to the automatic admissions law.

Do you attend a non-ranking school? Check out this post.

7. UT does not consider SAT Subject Tests

By state law, UT regular admissions cannot consider SAT Subject Tests. This is so not to burden students who may not have reasonable access to subject testing centers. Some honors programs, however, will look at self-reported scores.

8. You can submit your test scores until December 31 and your essays and resume by an internal deadline about a week after the official deadline

Many applicants see the December 1 deadline and assume everything must be submitted and documents received by the official deadline. Students can update their scores by December 31, so those December SAT/ACT dates usually qualify. There is also an "internal deadline" where students can send in documents by December 6 or 7. The only non-negotiable deadline is Apply Texas must be received by midnight of the deadline.

9. Some students may find out early, but almost everyone hears back at the same time in February

Starting in 2013, UT began notifying some exceptional or high financial need applicants of their favorable decision. According to the Campus to Counselor Newsletter, in Fall 2016-2017 about 1,200 students found out each month starting in November until everyone heard back the second week in February.

In practice, about 90% of all 50,000 or so applicants do not hear early. Nobody is ever denied regular admission early. If your friends are hearing back and you haven't received your decision, don't stress!

10. There is no magic admissions formula

There is no alchemy of rank and test score that will guarantee admission or scholarships. All competitive applicants will have strong academics, and most decisions come down to the review score assigned by the Office of Admissions. Since you never know your own scores or the scores of everyone else competing for your first-choice college/school, you cannot divine your chances nor determine why some people get in while others don't.

11. Top 7.09% guarantees admission

That's right! If you're truly on the border, you're in. If you're 7.1% or higher, you will not qualify. If this is the case for you, contact your assigned counselor and see what they think.

12. There isn't necessarily a disadvantage to applying as an out-of-state student

Many OOS get discouraged. In reality, the admit profiles are about the same for Texas and non-Texas US residents. A state law says that 90% of all students must come from Texas, but in practice about 91% of UT students each year are Texans. Some states like California are putting hard caps on OOS applicants, but if your OOS, you should approach your application the same as anyone else.

13. Trust the essay process!

I see this especially with outstanding academic students. Assuming UT is a safety, they submit last minute, error-ridden, cliche essays. Take the editing process seriously, work through a few drafts with one or two trusted editors, and argue convincingly why you deserve your first choice major.

14. UT doesn't preference AP, IB, or Distinguished Achievement graduation plan

Especially younger students ask which UT prefers if their school offers AP and IB. Really, it doesn't matter. Universities want to see that you're taking the most rigorous courses available and that you are performing well in them. The only time curriculum may come into play is if you're applying for a STEM major but not taking AP Calculus or advanced sciences, that may be a red flag to your reviewer.

15. Build a relationship with your assigned admissions representative

Although UT admissions counselors do not review their assigned territory, it never hurts to have a friend on the inside. Even though my former territory exceeded 3,000 applicants yearly, less than 30 would regularly contact me. I personally invited some to recruiting events or recommended them for scholarships. For smaller, private, or out of state universities, these connections can be invaluable. 

You can find your assigned counselor here. Reach out and say hello!

16. Consult information only from trusted sources

Anytime a sentence begins with "My friend's mom told me that..." or "I read on College Confidential that..." you should be highly suspicious. It isn't that people purposefully mislead, it's just that there are many half truths and speculations out there that often miss the point. If you ever have a question about admissions to UT and elsewhere, research the question from verified sources or ask their Office of Admissions or your assigned counselor directly.

Interested in maximizing your admissions chances? Complete my questionnaire for a free consultation.

Kevin MartinApplication