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Honors College begins to see change in student application pool

Milton Daniel Hall, the residence hall for honors students. (Heesoo Yang/Staff Photographer)

Since the John V. Roach Honors College changed its application process, the students enrolled in the program have become more creative and motivated both inside and outside the classroom.

The trend started during the 2018-2019 academic year, when the Honors College shifted its focus in admission decisions to the students’ supplemental essays, rather than their academic success.

“Student essays provide a better context for understanding a student and the challenges they have faced and/or overcome,” said Dr. Ron Pitcock, the interim dean of the Honors College. “The process is now more holistic and fairer to all applicants.” 

Since the new process has been in effect, the Honors College has seen a change in the applicant pool because students can actively show their interest in joining. Prior to the change, first-year students had received invitations into the Honors College at TCU and bypassed any additional steps to apply. 

“A key trend is that there are more students applying who have qualities more interesting than a high test score or top class rank,” said Pitcock. “More of these students have grit and have had to be creative in discovering ways to address their motivation to learn.” 

This new “opt-in” process is attracting students, “especially those who — because of a test score or under-resourced school system — may not see themselves as honors students but clearly are in every ounce of their being” apply and now be accepted into the Honors College, said Pitcock. 

Jett Forest, a student in the Honors College who was in the first class to experience the new application process, said he reached out to the Honors College upon submitting his undergraduate application.

“I applied because I saw that [the Honors College] offered great opportunities like study abroad trips and undergraduate research,” said Forest. “The discussion-based and liberal arts classes are a nice break from my math and econ classes.”

Pitcock said the old “opt-out” process limited its application pool. High school students were invited into the program based on their academic success inside the classroom.

“In the past, quantitative measurements provided through the TCU application were the driving factor. Many excellent students were overlooked in that process.” 

Dr. Ron Pitcock, the interim dean of the Honors College

Last year, the Honors College received more than 1,600 applications. According to the Honors College website, there is no minimum high school GPA or standardized test score for its first-year applicants.

To apply, students have to write two essays. One is at least 500 words and asks the students to write about something meaningful they would dedicate their lives to that lies completely outside of their intended major.

The second essay can be no more than 500 words. It asks the students to pick one of three available questions, which allows students to be more creative and gives them the freedom to share a meaningful experience that has impacted them.

“My expectation is that this change in admissions will lead to even more engaged classrooms, experiences and communities dedicated to not only learning but also actively changing our world,” said Pitcock.

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