Reviewed 8/2023

UNC’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions makes all decisions regarding the admission of students, including student-athletes.

The Student-Athlete Academic Initiative Working Group identified and compiled recommendations from reports over the past several years and linked each report recommendation to 21 academic processes. Report Recommendations for Admissions

2.0 Admissions

Like all applicants to UNC, student-athletes are required to complete and submit an application for admission to the University (see Office of Undergraduate Admissions).

UNC will admit students whom we believe:

  • Will succeed academically at UNC—and wish to succeed academically at UNC— while pursuing degrees that are meaningful to them
  • Will complete degree requirements stipulated by the University for all students
  • Will accomplish these two goals with appropriate assistance and support from the University

2.1 Expressing Interest and Applying to UNC

When a coach identifies a prospective student-athlete he/she wishes to recruit, the coach notifies the Department of Athletics Compliance Office and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions by completing and submitting an electronic “Prospect Form.” If the prospective student-athlete has not previously been identified by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, a file is created for the student. If the student has already been identified by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, either because the student expressed interest or Admissions has reached out to him/her via a search service that identifies prospective undergraduate students, the Prospect Form is added to the student’s existing record in ConnectCarolina. In addition to the Prospect Form, the coach must submit an unofficial copy of the student’s high school transcript and his/her unofficial SAT or ACT scores.

The recruitment cycles for the 28 intercollegiate athletics programs at UNC vary from team to team. Prospect Forms for prospective student-athletes are typically received during the summer preceding their senior year in high school, but, at times, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions receives Prospect Forms for athletes as early as their sophomore year in high school or as late as the summer before their first year in college. Prospect Forms for transfer students may be received at any time during the year preceding the student’s potential transfer to the University.

Recruitment takes a great deal of a coach’s time, budget and resources. Coaches are provided the opportunity to make a limited number of special-talent admission recommendations each year, a total of 160 first-year applicants (see 2.4 below for more information regarding special-talent admissions) and 12-15 transfers.

* In April 2022, the UNC Board of Governors approved the continuation of the waiver of the SAT or ACT requirement for candidates who are applying through fall 2024 admission. This waiver means that students who haven’t taken either test may still apply. It also means that students who have taken either test may submit their scores and have them considered as one part of their application. 

Even if they have taken a test, student-athletes being considered under the special talent policy are not required to submit these scores as part of their application nor as part of their recruit file through the special talent process. If a special-talent student does not submit the ACT or SAT, the student’s group will be calculated based on the student’s NCAA core GPA. 

2.2 National Letter of Intent (NLI)

UNC allows sport programs to issue a National Letter of Intent (NLI) before the student’s application has been completed and before the student has been officially offered admission to the University. The NLI does not automatically obligate the University to admit the student. The Office of Undergraduate Admissions works closely with the Athletics Compliance Office to conduct early evaluations of prospective student-athletes so that coaches will know in advance whether their prospects are likely to be admitted to the University.

2.3 Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Department of Athletics Compliance Office

Upon receipt of a prospective student-athlete’s transcript and testing information from the coach, the Compliance Office will:

  • Calculate the student’s projected National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) core course grade point average (GPA);
  • Determine whether the prospective student-athlete is projected to meet NCAA initial eligibility requirements;
  • Use a Predicted GPA Calculator, provided by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, to determine if the student falls into a group that requires evaluation by the Committee on Special Talent, in addition to evaluation by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions (explained below); and
  • The Office of Undergraduate Admissions will determine if the student falls into a group that requires evaluation by the Committee on Special Talent, in addition to evaluation by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions (explained below). 

In addition to reviewing individual students, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions consults with athletics teams about their entire recruiting classes. These consultations allow both the Department of Athletics and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions to monitor and improve the academic profile of each class, and maintain the University’s Academic Progress Rate (APR). Ideally, consultations between the two offices begin as early as one year before the class is to enroll.

2.4 Committee on Special Talent

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions has the final decision-making authority for all candidates seeking undergraduate admission to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Admissions Office follows policies established by the Board of Governors of the university system and by the Board of Trustees of UNC-Chapel Hill. By trustee policy, the admissions office also applies procedures approved by the Advisory Committee on Undergraduate Admissions, a standing committee of the faculty.

Trustee policy states:

“Provided that the criteria set forth hereinafter are met, this policy of competitive admissions shall not prevent the admission of selected applicants a) who demonstrate special talent for University programs requiring such talent and b) whose background, experience, and perspective will help extend the educational benefits of diversity to all members of the University community.”

The Advisory Committee has approved intercollegiate athletics as a category of students to be considered for special talent. Each year’s entering first-year class is allocated 160 spaces for students who have been recruited to participate. In addition to these special-talent student-athletes, other student-athletes—roughly 50 per year—are admitted without specific consideration of their athletic talent.

The 160 spaces per year is, in effect, a rolling average. When fewer than 160 spaces are used in a given year, the Department of Athletics may add the remaining number to the following year’s allotment; when more than 160 spaces are used, Athletics may “borrow” the excess number from the following year. When the latter occurs, the number of spaces for the following year is reduced to reflect the excess spaces used in the previous year.

All 160 special-talent student-athletes are evaluated individually by the Admissions Office. The primary criterion for admission is each student’s capacity to succeed academically at the University. No student is admitted if the Admissions Office believes he/she cannot succeed academically at UNC, regardless of his/her athletic talent. In assessing each student, the Admissions Office uses quantitative indicators such as test scores and high school grade-point averages, as well as qualitative indicators such as information about the student’s character, motivation and commitment to earning an education.

A Senior Associate Athletics Director in the Department of Athletics works with the coaches of all 28 varsity teams at UNC to allocate the 160 spaces to prospective student-athletes. These 160 student-athletes are not all athletics aid recipients For information on the academic credentials of incoming student-athletes, please visit the Office of Faculty Governance website.  

The special-talent clause also applies to students recommended by faculty in music and dramatic art; each of these programs may enroll 40 and 24 special-talent students per year, respectively. Without the consideration afforded under the special-talent clause, it is unlikely that these special-talent athletes, musicians and actors would be offered admission to UNC. As the Undergraduate Admissions Advisory Committee’s charge states, the University’s goal in admitting special-talent students “aim[s] to draw together students who will enrich each other’s education, strengthen the campus community, contribute to the betterment of society, and help the University achieve its broader mission.” 

The Committee on Special Talent is appointed by the Advisory Committee on Undergraduate Admissions, a standing committee appointed by the Chancellor. Like the Advisory Committee, the Committee on Special Talent meets under the provisions of the NC Open Meetings Law; meeting times and locations are posted in advance by UNC Media Relations. The Committee consists of at least six voting members, the majority of whom must be tenure track faculty members, and convenes each fall and meets as needed throughout the academic year and into the early summer.

The Committee on Special Talent specifically evaluates prospective student-athletes who

  • Have a predicted first-year GPA (PGPA) lower than 2.3 or have an NCAA core GPA lower than 3.0 if the student has no test score.

– or –

  • May only be admitted as exceptions to UNC-System policies and regulations because they do not meet the minimum course (MCR) or admissions requirements (MAR) established by the Board of Governors (e.g., minimum SAT Critical Reading and Math score of 800 or minimum ACT score of 17 and minimum High School GPA of 2.5).


2.5 Predicted Grade Point Average (PGPA)

Developed in conjunction with UNC’s Odum Institute, the Predicted Grade Point Average (PGPA) formula for student-athletes is based on the actual first-year academic performance of more than 700 special-talent student-athletes who enrolled at UNC between 2006 and 2010; the formula will be revised periodically as new cohorts enter the University and complete their first year. The 2.3 PGPA threshold was established based on an analysis of student performance that suggested student-athletes who completed their first year at UNC with GPAs of 2.3 or higher were more likely to stay at UNC and graduate than those who did not.

PGPA is based on the following:

  • NCAA core course GPA
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • Men’s vs. women’s sports*

* The Office of Admissions explored several options in building the PGPA formula but, ultimately, settled on one that provided the highest predictability and involved information consistently available from student to student—namely, a student’s highest test score earned (on the SAT Critical Reading and Math scale) and NCAA core GPA. Adding a factor for the program (men’s or women’s) that the student had joined increased the predictive power of the formula. In the data set used, students who joined women’s programs earned higher first-year GPAs than students with similar credentials who joined men’s programs.

Undergraduate Admissions divides the special-talent candidates into three groups:

  • Group 3 – PGPA > 2.6
  • Group 2 – PGPA > 2.3 and < 2.6
  • Group 1 – PGPA < 2.3 or possible breaches of community standards or exception to minimum course or admissions requirements of the UNC system

These groups help the Admissions Office monitor the overall strength of the entering class of special-talent students. The goal is to keep the number of Group 1 students to a minimum; to reduce, over time, the number of Group 2 students; and to increase, over time, the number of Group 3 students.

2.5.1 A Few Considerations Regarding PGPA

It is important to note that PGPA is not a way of evaluating students with precision but rather a way of grouping them. The formula helps UNC and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions decide which students need greater scrutiny during the admissions process. 

All coaches have access to the PGPA calculator so they can identify the particular Group that a prospective student would fall into, based on the student’s NCAA core course GPA, highest test score and athletic program (whether men’s or women’s) at the University. 

2.6 Pre-admission Letter

If the Admissions Office’s initial evaluation shows that a student is in Group 2 or Group 3, and if the student’s high school transcript and test scores do not raise concerns about the student’s likelihood of succeeding academically, and the student has submitted a satisfactorily completed application (including all required items), and upon a coach’s request, the Admissions Office will send a pre-admission letter that informs a student athlete that he/she likely will be admitted to UNC provided the student meets several conditions: 

  1. You must continue to progress academically and achieve at a level equal to, or greater than, your academic performance to date.
  2. You must complete the courses you are taking and planning to take. If you’d like to make any changes in these courses, you will need to receive written approval from our office.
  3. You must continue to conduct yourself as a good citizen. If we learn that you have faced any school or legal sanctions, we may not be able to offer you admission.
  4. You must establish and maintain both ACC and NCAA eligibility, and you must continue to intend to participate in the program that has recommended you for admission. 

Students in Group 2 or 3 who are pre-approved by the Admissions Office, regardless of whether they received a pre-admission letter, are reviewed formally by the Admissions Office and notified of their admission when all students receive their admission decisions based on the deadline by which they applied. 

2.7 Reporting

During the 2013-14 academic year, a working group, led by the Assistant Provost and Director of Institutional Reporting and Assessment, developed a new annual report for the admission of student-athletes. The stated purpose of the report is to foster transparency, provide context, protect privacy, enable assessment, encourage improvement and provide leadership. The first edition, issued for the cohort enrolling in 2013, was presented to the Faculty Council in April 2014 and is included in the annual report of the Advisory Committee on Undergraduate Admissions. Similar reports for subsequent cohorts have also been presented publicly at Faculty Council and are also published on the section of the Faculty Council website reserved for the Advisory Committee on Undergraduate Admissions.

2.8 Transfer Admissions

UNC makes the Common Application available to transfer students in August and accepts applications between August and mid-February for the following academic year. UNC does not typically enroll a full class of new transfer students in the College of Arts and Sciences for the spring term. A limited number of students may, however, be considered on a case-by-case basis for spring admission when individual circumstances warrant such consideration. 

Admission decisions are made after the February admissions deadline and communicated to students in mid-April, when regular admission decisions are communicated. 

All transfer students must complete an academic credit evaluation before enrolling at UNC. (See Transfer Credit on the Admissions website )  

When considering the admissibility of transfer students: 

  • When evaluating transfer applicants, the admissions office carefully considers their coursework from both high school and college. While group numbers are calculated based solely on high school work (with or without a test score), the applicants’ college work is a greater factor when considering their admissibility—particularly the further out from high school and/or the greater number of college credits they have earned. In addition to their academic performance and information provided throughout the rest of their application, we also factor in their academic standing at previous institutions, their NCAA eligibility to compete, and their transferable credits and applicability to degree completion. 
  • UNC System requirements: 
    • If a student is 20 years and younger with fewer than 24 transferable credits, they must meet MAR.  
    • If a student is 21 and older, any age with 24 or more transferable college credits (excluding any credit from exams), or active-duty service members or veterans with 3 or more years of active-duty service, they are exempt from MAR. 
  • Transfer students whose high school performance and testing indicated groups 2 or 3 and who have maintained at least a 2.5 GPA in their college work will likely be admissible with special-talent recommendations, provided they do their best work on their applications. 
  • Transfer students whose high school performance and testing indicated group 1 but who have maintained at least a 2.5 GPA in their college work may be admissible with special-talent recommendations, provided our comprehensive evaluation demonstrates that they’re likely to succeed academically at Carolina. These students may require evaluation by the Faculty Committee on Special Talent.  
  • Transfer students who have made below a 2.5 GPA in their college work, regardless of group based on high school performance, may require additional review. 
    • These students may only be recommended for special-talent admission with the approval of the athletic director or designee.  
    • These students may require evaluation by the Faculty Committee on Special Talent. At the discretion of the admissions office, this requirement may be waived if the student has demonstrated strong improvement in college-level performance. 
    • When evaluating any individual student in this category, the admissions office will pay particularly close attention to the academic performance at Carolina of students who were previously recruited by the program, as well as to the overall academic strength of the program’s current recruiting class.  

Different continuing eligibility rules exist for two-year college, four-year college, and graduate/postbaccalaureate transfer students. The Registrar and ASPSA have access to the NCAA Transfer Portal in order to determine which, if any, exceptions to the residency requirement apply.   

2.9 Graduate Admissions

The admission process for student-athletes does not differ in any way from the admission process for all Graduate School applicants. In fact, the Graduate School does not identify an applicant as a student athlete, nor does it track this information among its applicants. 

The Graduate School provides additional assistance for prospective student-athletes who graduate from other universities and choose to transfer to UNC.  Coaches communicate prospective graduate transfers’ program of interest to the Senior Associate Athletic Director assigned as the liaison for admissions.  This information is forwarded to a designated staff member of The Graduate School or other School that confers graduate or professional degrees who will identify the appropriate contact person in the desired graduate or professional degree program.  Coaches and prospective graduate transfers are encouraged to communicate directly with the program contact to learn more about the program’s application process and deadlines. 

Graduate School Admissions serves as the central office for applicants applying to UNC’s 80+ graduate programs, with the exception of the MBA and MAC programs in the Kenan-Flagler Business School. Graduate School Admissions monitors all applications for completeness, including transcripts, standardized test scores and letters of recommendation. They also check for minimum GPA, GRE and TOEFL scores and ensure that all applicants meet the University’s community standards review. 

Admission criteria include academic performance, potential contributions to the academic discipline and research, as well as previous work and other experiences. Some programs require applicants to complete an interview.