The Search for Excellence: Georgia Tech's Approach to Admissions

Reputation is built on excellence, and excellence is built on reputation. In universities, this mutually enhancing relationship is developed by admitting the best students, operating with the very best staff, and hiring and retaining the best faculty. Unquestionably the pyramid of excellence is founded on the students. Here at Georgia Tech, it is evident that we must be doing something right. 

During the recent past, the quality of our undergraduate students has consistently improved. This has been possible by focusing on the total person, not just on the traditional measures of exams and grades. During the admissions process, each application is read at least three times, sometimes more, by admission staff members.  Increasingly there is additional careful review provided by volunteer faculty members.

The admission staff is an extraordinarily hard-working group of professionals with a wealth of experience and know-how. They read all essays and recommendations looking for the differentiating experience, way of thinking, maturity of thought, creativity, and innovative spirit of each applicant. They also look for the personal traits that make a good fit with the Georgia Tech community and culture. They look for those who take risks, those who push themselves and take every opportunity their environment offers. They look for integrity, honesty, and the desire to learn. They look for evidence of leadership and a sense of worldliness consistent with our presence on the global stage. Our admissions process also seeks diversity in a very broad sense. In doing so, we admit a group of individuals who can inform and enrich the lives of their colleagues because they bring different experiences and interests.

Our approach is working. In response to our rising reputation over the past few years, our applications for admission have more than doubled. We have been able to admit truly talented individuals who further enhance our reputation. We strive to admit those students who we have good reason to believe will be successful at Georgia Tech. But, there are some applicants, in all categories, who can enrich the university but cannot be admitted because of resource limitations. We are already at the limit of our capacity to deliver the quality education that our students expect, deserve, and demand. 

A big challenge to the admission process and excellence is the uncertainty associated with the yield of admitted students and their subsequent distribution among our many excellent programs. Yield has been steadily increasing (making predictions even more difficult) but must further improve in order to efficiently manage the creation of a class. The distribution among fields of study is important for our reputation as a university centered on science and engineering. 

But the biggest challenge we face is making sure that we have financial aid for all who need it. This is crucial to make sure that Georgia Tech lives up to the ideal of being the “go to” place for all those wanting to improve themselves and their families, without restrictions of family income.  It is also crucial to maintain our competitiveness. The increasing need of resources for financial aid will be the subject of another blog.

- Rafael L. Bras

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