Fifth in a series on strength in regional universities
While it is impossible to catalog all of the expectations that any university has for applicants, there are some general considerations that all students should consider if college is in their future. Institutions vary widely and knowing the type of institution a student is considering is important. According to National Association for College Admission Counseling academic achievement measured in grade point average (GPA) may top the list but don’t stop there. Specific courses and performance in those courses, especially in core academic pursuits, is important. Four years of English, 3 to 4 years of math and science, 3 to 4 years in social studies, and 2 to 3 years in a foreign language and the arts are all positive accomplishments admissions officers consider. These same criteria are also important for scholarships and financial aid.
In addition, extracurricular activities are also sought after in admissions expectations according to Harvard College. Leadership roles in any setting such as sports, campus clubs, and student council all are valuable experiences. Likewise, volunteer work, internships, and job experience are also positive engagements that may help any holistic consideration of the student’s fitness for study. At WT entrepreneurship is also important. A high school student who shows the initiative to begin a business or creative enterprise may make a strong impression on university admissions officers. Research or other creative projects in any field demonstrate intellectual curiosity, dedication, and most importantly the ability to think critically. Activities of high interest to the student, rather than checkboxes for a university application process, have the most value.
Some institutions use the concept of “demonstrated interest” according to Inside Higher Ed. Whether or not a student has visited campus, attended recruiting events, or show special attention toward the institution is positive evidence. Of course, it is common sense that a student interested in a particular university will likely be more confidently received if it seems that they have studied the institution and understand its culture, location, and various characteristics.
The West Texas A&M University Admissions website has an abundance of information regarding applications. True to the panhandle spirit it highlights those aspects of our university that are particularly important to university leadership and faculty, and reflective of the region we serve. We encourage students to do a head-to-head cost comparison and give us the opportunity to meet and/or beat other university offers. Understanding the culture of West Texas can be especially important to students both from our region, and those from different places around our state, nation and world.
A university’s worldview can be impacted by many factors. WT expects its students to come to the campus with a strong sense of self, purpose, mission and passion, admittedly hard to measure but critically important nonetheless. Understanding the fit between a person’s mission and institutional mission is the genesis of college success. It does not require a student to mindlessly adopt an institutional perspective. Rather, understanding personal perspective in relation to what has taken the university, such as the case with West Texas A&M University’s history, a century to develop leads to informed decision-making. Appreciation for the history, strengths and weaknesses, provides insight. For example, WT started as a Normal School preparing teachers for this region. To this day, nearly 75% of the teachers and administrators of the top 26 counties of Texas have at least one degree or certification from WT. Institutional distinctiveness grows from commitment over the “long haul.” That distinctiveness may be more or less appealing to different students, with different life experiences, and that is what provides choice in public universities. In Texas, there are 38 public universities. If any two are alike there is redundancy in the system. Each should be different. WT is proudly different.
Forces at work mark quality and progress in a way that creates an environment where one-size-fits-all. A noble, albeit misplaced, effort to create fairness. Our expectation of students is that they come to WT with ideas, concepts, values, and points of view that they cherish and believe are important. In addition, the leadership, faculty, other students, alumni and donors, and cultural and social norms, the community that serves and is served by the university all impact institutional self-concept. A student with a strong sense of self attending a university with a strong sense of self is a powerful combination. Lastly, a university with strength in social sciences, fine arts, business, human health, agriculture, engineering, and the myriad of disciplines in various measures will impact the institutional sense of self. I expect that students who attend West Texas A&M University have a job to do. That job entails, in part, affecting the future of the University by bringing their values, perceptions, and attitudes to the university to help shape its trajectory into the future. This requires maturity in student interest and self-confidence which is a burden and a responsivity. Education is a two-way street.
Our expectation is simply this. In numerous ways, our students will contribute to the future growth and development of WT in much the same way that faculty and staff do. It marks the job of the student as pivotal and contributes to institutional strength.
Walter V. Wendler is President of West Texas A&M University. His weekly columns, with hyperlinks, are available at https://walterwendler.com/