Is getting into TAMS a good idea?

By Rajkamal Rao  

Image Courtesy: The University of North Texas

The Texas Academy of Math and Sciences (TAMS), a program on the campus of the University of North Texas, is primarily a STEM program. TAMS was designed to accelerate students through the Texas university system. Students withdraw from high school and enter UNT early for their 11th and 12th grades.

Because Texas law requires state-chartered colleges and universities to accept credits earned at other state-chartered colleges and universities, credits earned at TAMS are easily transferrable if a student decides to attend a 4-year degree program, such as at UT Austin, or Texas A&M, and is accepted at such an institution.

Acceleration is the primary appeal of the TAMS program. At the end of their 12th grade, many students would have earned 48-54 college credit hours, even as they are earning credentials to graduate with a high school diploma. Such students could take a couple of college classes during the summer at their 4-year institution and start their junior year in college. Meanwhile, their friends who stayed back in a traditional high school would be entering the same college as a freshman!

Acceleration particularly appeals to students who want to pursue a medical degree, which takes 8 full years. There are Medical Early Assurance Programs which are designed to cut this to 7 years, but with TAMS, one could potentially cut it all down to just 6 years.

Besides acceleration, TAMS, because of its intense stress on STEM training, is also attractive to elite schools around the country. TAMS, housed in an actual university, provides access to labs and professors not available in a high school. It has various STEM-based clubs in which students get to do real research assisting professors. Outstanding TAMS graduates often obtain admission to top tech schools such as CalTech, MIT, and Georgia Tech.

With so much going for TAMS, admission is competitive (SAT scores and high math/science competencies required). Students are required to submit their school transcripts from the 7th grade, through the first reporting period of the 10th grade. Students should be on track to complete Geometry, Algebra I, and Algebra II by the end of their sophomore year (10th grade). The last SAT test that students can take for the regular admissions cycle is the October test date of a student's sophomore year. Four recommendation letters are needed - from your Science, Math, and English teachers, along with one from your school counselor or principal.

Students will select one of six tracks - Health Professions, Engineering, Computer
Science + Mathematics, Music, Visual Arts and Design, General Science and Mathematics.

TAMS is a residential program, and charges for tuition, living, and food. The cost is about $27,000 a year. You must fill out the FAFSA form to find out for what financial aid you will qualify.

Admissions Process and Interview Day

If you're lucky to be selected, the first step in the process is that you're invited to attend an interview. Only students who show strong promise are invited to Interview Day. High SAT scores (1500 and above) are good predictors to getting the invitation, although students with scores as low as 1320 also have been known to be invited. Applicants must request that their official SAT/ACT score report be sent to UNT (not TAMS).

Students, along with their parents, convene at TAMS on Interview Day around 9 AM. After a general session with everyone, the parents break out into a Financial Aid session, but the students are taken to a test hall for their math tests. The tests are about an hour long and are broken into Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 levels.

Performing well on the math exams on interview day is an important step in getting accepted to TAMS. Use these links to help you prepare better. Successful TAMS students tell us that unless one gets a perfect score on these tests, they are unlikely to make it to the final stage.

At the conclusion of the math tests, students are given a short break. Then they are grouped into units of four students each. The group interview process then starts. Students are quizzed on their personalities (if you were a fruit, what fruit would you be and why?), or world topics (such as the environment). Students are expected to build off on answers provided by other members within the group. This portion of the interview is to see how well you do as a team. Sometimes you're asked to participate in a fun activity, such as a scavenger hunt. Be mindful that UNT staff will be observing how you interact with each other, and how you contribute to your team's overall output.

Towards the end of the group session, you'll be asked to write a short essay. The topic could be about the interview day, what you learned from the day's activities or some other subject unrelated to TAMS.

In Nov 2019, TAMS began testing one-on-one student interviews instead of group interviews. Clients report that the interviews were about 20 minutes long. 
TAMS accepts students on a rolling admissions calendar, from October through April. Students who are successful in the interview are offered admission during the customary season, in March. You must accept offers of admission before May 1.

The institution maintains an excellent FAQ page.

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