So, you want to apply to UT Austin. What next?

By Rajkamal Rao  

Image Courtesy: The University of Texas Austin

The University of Texas in Austin, called UT, is the best Tier-1 public university in Texas and one of the best in the world. It has consistently made the list of eight "Public Ivy" schools. Public Ivy is a term coined by author Richard Moll in his 1985 book, Public Ivies: A Guide to America's Best Public Undergraduate Colleges and Universities to refer to universities in the United States that are said to provide an Ivy League collegiate experience at a public university price.

Boasting over 4,800 graduate assistants including more than 1,800 research assistants, UT has earned Carnegie Foundation's classification as an institution that engages in "Very high research activity." Four Nobel laureates are affiliated with UT.

The university's Engineering, Computer Science, and Business programs are consistently ranked in the top-10 in the country, better than similar programs at Ivy League schools. In terms of prestige among the country's top public universities, UT is nearly in the same league as the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Michigan, and the University of Virginia. With the city of Austin's standing as an effective alternative to Silicon Valley and numerous high-profile multi-billion dollar investments from Big Tech, UT's prestige has dramatically increased in recent years. 

For the ultimate examples of how UT has helped change the world, high school students can look to the contributions of UT's Jason McLellan, an associate professor of molecular bio-sciences and his team of researchers, Daniel Wrapp and Nianshuang Wang. Together, they co-designed the stabilized spike protein at the heart of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to battle Covid.

Or, consider how Dr. John Goodenough, a UT Cockrell Engineering Professor and 2019 Nobel Prize winner who died in June 2023, helped change the world through his research in batteries. The Lithion Ion battery that powers modern mobile devices owes its existence to Dr. Goodenough.


How selective is UT?

The 2024 numbers are here. According to the Austin American Statesman, UT received 73,000 applicants for Fall 2024, a record.

By state law, UT is required to offer automatic admissions to the Top 6% of each high school graduating class. Also, by state law, 75% of the incoming freshman class must be selected from the Top 6% cohort.

UT accepts approximately 10,000 freshmen each year, which means that 7,500 seats are dedicated to the Top 6%. There are only 2,500 seats left for holistic admission - that is for everyone else including those not in the Top 6% and students from around the world.

So, there were a total of 73,000 - 7,500 = 65,500 applications for the 2,500 seats. Statistically, this translates to a 3.8% acceptance rate. The Statesman says that the acceptance rate is 11% for the holistic pool, although how it arrived at this generous number is unknown.

According to our analysis, the holistic UT pool is more selective than Stanford, Caltech, Harvard, or MIT. In 2021, these schools had acceptance rates between 3.9% and 4.1%.

Getting into UT is just the first hurdle. Getting into the major of your choice is the next. Then, getting into an Honors program. And finally, getting a scholarship.

The top disciplines sought are Computer Science, Business, Engineering, and Natural Science majors. With so much demand, many students selecting these majors are routinely being denied admission to their choice of major [the Top 6% get two choices] and are being offered Coordinated Admissions Program (CAP) admission to pursue a liberal arts major at one of six UT system schools for the first year and then transfer to the 40 acres. UT doesn't seem to understand that most students wanting to pursue CS, Business, Engineering and CNS majors DO NOT WANT to entertain CAP offers. It is becoming UT's polite way of saying no.

What about majors?

When you apply to UT, you also have to choose your major. Certain majors - like engineering, computer science, and business - are extremely popular with students. With demand ever so high, admission to these majors is highly competitive. Automatic admits are given two choices for majors, but it is not always clear if the second choice is automatically granted if the first choice is denied.

While your choice of major may appear to be career-defining, it is not really so unless you are in a professional field, like nursing or medicine or engineering. Here's an excellent article by a UT freshman about majors.

Majors come with some restrictions. In general, a double major requires 140-150 credit hours total, compared to 120 for a straight single major. UT prefers that you complete all these in four years.

For example, in the College of Engineering, students have to complete 30 semester hours before they can apply for a double major. Click here for details.

UT provides students numerous opportunities in the arts - architecture and design, music, theater art.
Students who are interested in hot areas, such as Video Game development, or media/visual arts, such as Computer Animation as seen in movies, music videos, and commercials, should recognize the hybrid nature of course content, often spanning multiple colleges within UT. The university offers numerous choices to train in such topics anyway. For example, prospective students interested in pursuing Video Game Development should first apply to another major such as Arts and Entertainment Technologies (College of Fine Arts), Computer Science (College of Natural Sciences), or Radio-Television-Film (Moody College of Communication). Once accepted, the students can apply to the Game Development and Design Program. Another option is to pursue training across colleges, like the Bridging Disciplines Program in Digital Arts and Media.

Can I get a double major?

UT offers several double majors through its honors offerings. The Canfield Business Honors Program is considered a major by itself. Many students also major in another business area such as Finance, Marketing, or Supply Chain. Other examples of dual degrees include UT's Computer Science and Business (CSB) and the Electrical and Computer Engineering and Business (ECB) Honors programs.

Getting a double major means that you're, in effect, getting two degrees - although you will get only one diploma (that of your home college).  Your transcript, however, will show that you completed courses in both majors.

Suppose that your home major is Economics and you decide to major in Mathematics.  Your diploma will say that you earned a BS degree in Economics.  But your transcripts will show that you earned two majors - Economics and Math.

According to the Teagle Foundation, the following double major combinations are the most common. But UT may not allow all these combinations.

Foreign Language and International Studies
Foreign Language and Political Science
Economics and Mathematics
Economics and Political Science
Foreign Language and Biology
Foreign Language and Economics
Foreign Language and Business
Economics and Engineering
Foreign Language and Psychology

Most schools require you to complete all course credits for both majors within the time you are enrolled in the college - about 4 years. Some colleges require you to complete a minimum number of distinct courses to qualify for a double major.  It is certainly a lot more difficult to get a double major.  Because of the course restrictions, you may have to declare your majors earlier, meaning that you will miss out on trying out new electives or areas.

Ultimately, though, it is all about the number of specific credits that you are required to complete.  If you can knock off some preliminary courses when you are still in high school, it will give you more freedom to pursue a double major. 

Some schools don't allow students to pursue a second major if a student is already enrolled in composite/joint degrees, which by design, combine two different fields.  MIT, for example, offers composite degrees in Mathematics with Computer Science or Computer Science with Molecular Biology.  In general, MIT says that students are expected to plan a double major program in advance and complete it in four or five years.  MIT offers double major opportunities only to its top students - those who score at least a GPA of 4.0 or higher on a 5.0 GPA scale.

There is no definite advantage in getting a double major - meaning, you won't necessarily be preferred by employers nor will you automatically get a leg up when you try to attend graduate school.  Still, the thinking is that if you can get two majors during the same 4 years for the price of one (and a bit more), and you can demonstrate your commitment, this is altogether helpful.  Some researchers report that up to 25% of college students in the US are currently pursuing double majors.

Some colleges allow you to take courses at a partner institution to earn simultaneous degrees.  For example, Carnegie Mellon University students can take medical courses at the University of Pittsburgh because these are not offered at CMU.  Simultaneous degrees are posted on one transcript as two degrees, but two separate degree certificates are issued, one from each college.

Check with your target college or university for specific program information about Dual/Double Majors and Simultaneous Degrees.


How competitive are the Honors Programs? What's the difference between CBHP & McCombs?

Students are also invited to apply to Honors Programs at the University, College, or Department levels. Honors programs offer additional benefits to students, such as smaller class sizes, the ability to register early for courses, or designated housing (the Quad). Rules regarding admission to Honors programs vary by college. Admission is competitive.

The only times you can get into CBHP is as an entering Freshman, or in rare cases, as a Sophomore. Demonstrating the high bar of CBHP, McCombs business students say that their Freshman GPA should be 3.95 to apply for admission as a Sophomore. This is because the two business programs, although sharing the same building, are vastly different.

CBHP is a major in itself; McCombs is not. CBHP courses are taught using the case method of instruction, just like at Harvard or Darden (the University of Virginia). CBHP courses are, by design, intense. For example, the Freshman MIS course involves long-form projects that require mastery in Excel, knowledge of R programming, SQL, and Tableau; the McCombs equivalent is less rigorous. CBHP courses are open only to Honors students, but CBHP students could take McCombs courses at will. Students from the two programs intersect at University and Business School events, such as recruiting and networking events, but otherwise, largely remain excluded from each other.

At McCombs, you may only pursue a single major within the business school. Students enter the school as an undeclared business major. This is not an inferior choice. Unless you are applying to the Canfield Honors program, you have to complete 30 credits and demonstrate your competence before you are accepted into a major of your choice. Remember, you can change your major any number of times.

At the Canfield Business Honors Program (CBHP), you can pursue a double major in business. McCombs students can however pursue a double major outside of the business school, such as in History, or Biology. Most McCombs students pursue a major and a minor, such as a major in Finance and a minor in Accounting.

The College of Natural Sciences is more generous. It allows students multiple chances to apply to their Honors program. "Current UT students and transfer students can apply to any of the CNS honors programs before their fourth long semester of college. See each program's website for application instructions." Please look at FAQ #4 here. For the undergrad class of 2026, there were 3,000 applicants for the Polymathic Honors Program within the College of Natural Sciences. Only 150 were offered a spot.

UT offers two admission deadlines - the priority deadline (Nov 1) and the regular deadline (Dec 1). Students who meet the priority deadline are offered a decision no later than Feb 1, although frequently, the school continues to send out admission offers even earlier. Regular deadline students will hear about their application before March 1.

What happens after you apply?

If you're an automatic admit and you apply before the priority deadline, you will generally hear from UT within a few days that you have been admitted to UT. But UT will likely not confirm admission to the major of your choice because this evaluation is through a holistic process. It is entirely possible for automatic admits to be denied admission to both their chosen majors. If your first and second choice majors are less-in-demand Liberal Arts areas, you are more likely to be awarded admission to one of those majors right away.

The best-case scenario is if you get into all three: UT, your first-choice major, and the Honors program of your choosing.

The next scenario is that you get into UT but your first-choice major is denied. This can be disappointing for those set on pursuing a high-in-demand major such as computer science or business. For its part, UT provides you with a list of majors that are still available. Some students may accept a close relative (Applied Math instead of Computer Science) in the hopes of maintaining very high grades in the Freshman year and requesting an inter-departmental transfer. Such transfer cases are very competitive. Generally, students with UT GPAs above 3.9 have a chance.

Students denied their first-choice major can always appeal the decision to UT. Unlike private universities, UT, as a public institution, offers students a rigorous appeals process. But success during appeals is rare because the burden is on the student to prove that the original application was so replete with errors (wrong grades, incorrect test scores, inaccurate recommendation letters) that the student deserves a second look. You can use the MyStatus page to appeal your decision.

Students denied their choice of major need to confront the real possibility of not attending UT at all, electing to enroll in another university where they at least have their favorite major locked in. They can then hope to transfer to UT for the Sophomore year, but admission to your favorite major is still extremely competitive. More than 1,500 students transfer, so you could get lucky. 

The next scenario is that you're denied admission to UT, but you're offered a spot in the university's Coordinated Admissions Program (CAP). CAP makes it possible for freshman applicants to UT Austin to begin their studies at another UT System university, such as UT Arlington. After completing CAP requirements during their freshman year at UT Arlington, students automatically transfer to UT Austin to complete their undergraduate studies. Students must examine CAP requirements at their system school, UT's core curriculum requirements and their high school AP record to decide which high school courses to transfer for college credit. If you have already claimed credit, it has been written to your student record and cannot be changed. CAP admissions are restricted to Liberal Arts majors. It is not realistic to expect CAP students to transfer to business, computer science, or engineering. You have to compete for those precious spots just like any other transfer student.

The worst scenario is that you're denied admission to UT. If this happens, you must learn to move on for the Freshman year and enroll somewhere else. Maintain excellent grades and try for transfer admission to the UT Sophomore year. 

Core Curriculum: What courses will I take at UT if I enroll?

All students pursuing an undergraduate degree at the university must complete the 42-hour statewide core curriculum. [Examine this link to see a detailed list of all core courses for any Texas institution].

Core courses may be chosen from a large menu of classes offered under broad topic areas such as English Composition, Humanities, History, Government, Social Sciences, Math, Natural Sciences, and the Arts. Students can generally proceed to take classes in their major only after completing core curriculum requirements - and will do so after three semesters, assuming 15 credits a semester.

Based on a state law passed in 2015, UT is more generous in awarding college credit for AP/IB courses taken in high school. Work with UT's Testing and Evaluation Services department to apply for credits transfer. Here's a complete map between AP courses and UT approved courses.

Can I take community college credits to transfer to UT?

If you want to meet core curriculum requirements before you even start at UT by taking classes during the summer, you can do so by registering at your favorite community college. You will save money  because community colleges are much less expensive than taking courses at UT. 

Suppose you live in the Fort Worth area and want to complete an Economics course that you will be forced to take at UT to satisfy the core curriculum. Suppose also that Economics, as a topic, is not crucial to your college or post-college career. You may then fulfill the Economics requirement by completing a course at the Tarrant County Community College and have your credits transferred to UT.

To do this, go to UT's Transfer Credit website, select Tarrant County Community College in the "Sending Institution" dropdown, and select "Economics" in the UT Department dropdown. Leave the UT course number blank. Click on Initiate Search and you will get a list of courses that you can take at TCCC that can transfer to UT. 

UT Housing

Watch this video for a quick summary of the various housing options on campus. For information on UT Austin apartments, subleases, housing, and roommates, check out this Facebook group.

Home to Texas

Home to Texas is an innovative scholarship-funded summer program that connects first-year students with internship and research opportunities in their hometown communities. Apply to this in the Spring semester of your freshman year at UT.

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