College application season is fast approaching and high school seniors all over the nation are working through one of the most stressful and exciting times of their life. After receiving over 40,000 applications last year, it is safe to say that there are thousands of hopeful students out there with the University of Florida on their list. Things are changing, however, in the steps these hopefuls will take in applying to the University of Florida Honors Program.

Associate director of the Honors Program, Dr. Melissa Johnson, oversees the entire process of honors admissions. Through clear articulation and endowed with a genuine excitement, Dr. Johnson explains the new and welcome changes. Instead of completing a secondary application after students are accepted, starting this fall applicants who wish to be in the program will complete two honors essays in addition to their application to the university. Dr. Johnson says that, “For years we have been asking if we could be a part of the UF application.”

So what finally tipped the scale of the powers that be in the UF admissions office? In January of 2018, just about a month before admissions decisions came out, faculty even higher up in admissions informed Dr. Johnson that there would be a portion of students auto admitted to the University’s Honors Program based on test scores and GPA. With the news of the autoadmit change for the class of 2022 came the news of the addition of the honors application to the regular UF application for the class of 2023. With a slight laugh, Dr. Johnson notes that “we are part of that process now!”

This change comes with a tricky shift in numbers adding to a process that is already “challenging at times.” Each application represents a real student’s future and hard work, a connection that can be hard to make amidst a world of numbers and rapidly increasing test score and GPA averages. The program director said that in previous years Honors averages between 2,500 and 2,700 applications. Yet, this year the admissions team has been warned to expect a number falling between the wide range of 11,000 to 24,000.

The words “top ten public university” seem to be ringing in everyone’s ears and UF’s rise from ninth to eight has only heightened the determination among faculty to launch the university to the top five. With this in mind, could a change in the accessibility of the honors program application draw more high achieving students to UF and help attain this goal? Dr. Johnson believes this change could “indirectly” help the university achieve this goal. If students hear back in February there will be more time for UF and the Honors Program to “convince those students that UF has the opportunities they are looking for.” In the hopes of truly attracting high achieving students, however, Dr. Johnson highlights the need for emphasizing the academic aspects to prospective students instead of just school spirit and tradition. Accessibility to applying to honors is only the first step; the University must work harder to convey the immense research and education opportunities that students crave when applying to other prestigious institutions.