With a change in Texas A&M’s admission options on the horizon, fewer students applying for fall 2021 and beyond will be able to rely solely on academics to get there.

Currently, the university offers three main paths for prospective freshmen to be admitted: Automatic admission for those in the top 10% of their high school class; academic admission for those in the top quarter of their class who also meet certain test score minimums; and a holistic review process for everyone else. But starting with applicants for the fall 2021 semester, A&M is dropping the academic admission option, meaning all applicants outside that top one-tenth will go through the review process.

Brandie Eneks, senior associate director of admissions, said the change comes in response to a continued increase in the number of freshman applications and a growing pool of students who quality for automatic admission through the top 10 percent and academic admission options.

Based on A&M enrollment data for fall 2018, the freshman class was composed of 10,759 students — about 1,000 more than in fall 2015. Of that 2018 class, 5,694 were in the top 10 percent of their high school classes.

While the right combination of grades and test scores will no longer carry the same certainty it has afforded the rest of the top quarter, Eneks said strong academics will be “just as important as always” for future A&M applicants.

“Students should be encouraged to take challenging coursework to better prepare them for the college classroom,” Eneks wrote in an email to The Eagle.

But as A&M’s review process looks at a host of other factors, Eneks advised applicants to “get involved and seek leadership opportunities whenever possible.”

“Our holistic review process is exactly that — a full 360 review of each applicant’s admission file,” Eneks wrote. “We consider academic and personal achievements as well as extraordinary opportunities, challenges and resourcefulness.”

At A&M Consolidated High School, many college-bound students are already well-prepared for this kind of all-encompassing analysis, said campus testing coordinator Amiee Parsons. But as automatic admission becomes limited to just the top 10 percent, Parsons said the school will take steps to support those who may have been counting on the academic admission option.

“We’ve always encouraged our students to work on their grades and be well-rounded, to be involved, to join organizations, to find some area that makes you unique to a university,” Parsons said. “So that part won’t change. It’s just that we will maybe spend more time with some of those kids that aren’t going to be automatic and really help them make sure their resumes say something special about them.”

According to geographic data from A&M’s website, 633 students from Brazos County applied to be part of A&M’s fall 2018 freshman class, with 469 being admitted and 351 ultimately enrolling.

Bryan ISD’s director of counseling services, Donna Willett, said A&M’s decision to put more students through the holistic review could mean better chances for a particular subset of Aggie hopefuls.

“There are a number of students who take advanced classes, participate in school activities, hold down a job, but might not make all A’s or test well, but are more than prepared to succeed at TAMU,” Willett wrote in a statement to The Eagle. “This change will very much benefit that type of student.”

Parsons said cutting academic admission will give A&M more room to assemble a freshman class of well-rounded students who will make unique contributions to the university both in and out of the classroom.

“If I’m Texas A&M, obviously I want people who are smart and can do the work, but I also want people who bring something else to the table,” Parsons said.

Applications for fall 2021 open on July 1, 2020, and since A&M’s admission process does not include an interview, Eneks recommended that students “use the application and essay to tell us their story.”

At A&M Consolidated, writing their college essays is a part of the students’ classwork, and teachers are available to help during that process, Parsons said. Overall, she said that while the move away from academic admissions will make a difference to a lot of the school’s students, those who may have been relying on that option can remain strong candidates if they approach the application process in the right way.

“Most of the students who are gifted academically are also involved in a lot of activities,” Parsons said. “They already have something on their resume they can focus on. It’s just a matter of sitting down with them and figuring out what makes them unique.”

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