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
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.
2.1.1 "Getting Ready for UNC"
For late middle school and early high school students who plan to attend college and compete at the intercollegiate level, the Working Group has collaborated with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions to create a recruiting and admissions document for prospective students.
The document, produced by Admissions, is available publicly and serves several purposes:
- Provides a point of reference for coaches to share with prospective student-athletes whom they are interested in recruiting for intercollegiate competition at UNC
- Conveys the message that UNC is academically rigorous
- Emphasizes that UNC offers a liberal arts education as well as professional degrees
- Directs prospective student-athletes and their families to the UNC Admissions website for further information
See Process 1.4 for more information.
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
- Contact the Office of Undergraduate Admissions to discuss the student’s potential to be admitted to UNC.
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, and most thrive academically at UNC. Approximately 110 (70%) special-talent student-athlete admits per year are non-North Carolina residents. UNC does not admit more than 18% of its overall incoming class from out-of-state, so out-of-state admissions at UNC is highly selective. Many out-of-state special-talent athletes would be competitive admits, not requiring special-talent consideration, if they were in-state applicants.
The special-talent clause also applies to students recommended by faculty in music and dramatic art; each of these programs may recommend 20 students per year. 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 lower than 2.3 or have no predicted GPA because they are international students
– or –
- Require review for possible breaches of community standards for academic or personal behavior*
– 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).
*The Admissions Office screens student applications for any concerns regarding community standards. There are two general questions related to community standards included on the Common Application:
- Have you ever been found responsible for a disciplinary violation at any educational institution you have attended from the 9th grade onward (or the international equivalent)?
- Have you ever been adjudicated guilty or convicted of a misdemeanor, felony or other crime?
In addition, UNC’s member page on the Common Application includes the following question:
- Have you entered a plea of no contest or nolo contendere, or an Alford plea, to a misdemeanor, felony or other criminal charge?
The following custom instructions are included in the margin of UNC’s Common Application page:
“In an effort to maintain a safe learning community, we must ask community standards questions of all applicants. For the purpose of these questions, ‘criminal charge’ refers to any crime other than a traffic related misdemeanor or an infraction. You must, however, include any alcohol or drug related offenses whether or not they are traffic related incidents. Answering “yes” may not necessarily preclude you from being admitted. However, failing to respond completely, accurately, and truthfully, may be grounds to deny or withdraw your admission or to dismiss you after enrollment.
If you answer yes, you will be required to provide a written explanation that gives the approximate date of each incident, explains the circumstances, and reflects on what you learned from the experience. The University reserves the right to require an additional statement from an appropriate official corroborating your account, either before acting on your application or before permitting you to enroll. Your failure to provide such a statement upon request may be grounds to deny or withdraw your admission or to dismiss you after enrollment.
You are required to notify the University immediately and in writing of any new criminal charge, any disposition of a criminal charge (unless the criminal adjudication or conviction has been expunged), or any school, college, or University disciplinary action against you, or any type of military discharge other than an honorable discharge, or any non-routine absence from school, that occurs at any time after you submit this application and prior to enrollment. Your failure to do so may be grounds to deny or withdraw your admission or to dismiss you after enrollment.”
Additionally, all enrolling students are required to answer the following question:
Do you have any criminal charges pending against you?
____ Yes ____ No
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
The data used in developing the PGPA includes the first-year UNC GPAs of students enrolling from 2011 to 2015. To the extent that students in these cohorts took irregular classes documented in the Wainstein Report during their first year, the grades they earned in these courses were included in the data. Based on a follow-up study by the Odum Institute and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, the impact of these courses on the formula is slight, if measurable at all.
The Admissions Office is committed to reexamining the PGPA formula every year. Annual reviews of the first-year performance of each entering cohort against their PGPAs have found that the original formula has remained as effective for subsequent cohorts as for the first cohort admitted following the implementation of the formula.
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, 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:
- The student must continue to make progress toward graduation (for high school students) or successfully complete their current academic term (for transfer students).
- Any changes in the student’s high school academic schedule must be approved in advance by UNC’s Admissions Office.
- The student must submit a satisfactorily completed application, including all required fees or fee waiver requests, along with official SAT or ACT scores and any required recommendations for admission.
- The student must have a record of good conduct.
- The student must establish and maintain initial eligibility for the ACC and NCAA (tracked by the Compliance Office).
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 in January or March (or later if the Admissions Office receives their application later).
UNC’s process for making admissions decisions for special-talent student-athletes has been extensively revised over the last four years, and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and the Department of Athletics are confident that this system will continue to result in effective admissions decisions. Regardless, the Admissions Office will continue to evaluate the process.
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 September and accepts applications between September 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 is not rolling; 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 and Advising FAQs and Transferring Your Courses) UNC currently does not identify special-talent transfer applicants by Groups (1, 2 or 3).
An additional step for transfer student-athletes is the One Time Transfer Exception (OTTE) report that Compliance shares with the Registrar and the ASPSA. These reports apply to all NCAA sports except basketball (men’s and women’s), football and baseball. The NCAA also has specific requirements for student-athletes who transfer to a different institution.
2.9 Graduate Admissions
The admissions process for UNC student-athletes who earn a bachelor’s degree with athletics eligibility remaining does not differ from the admissions process for all Graduate School applicants. Domestic students can apply to any of the university’s graduate programs or post-graduate certificate programs. They may also choose to enroll in The Friday Center where they may take additional undergraduate courses for the duration of their eligibility. International students must be enrolled in one of the university’s graduate programs. For students interested in post graduate studies, ASPSA counselors can let them know about potential academic paths and guide them to the appropriate contact person in the desired graduate or professional degree program. Personnel in The Graduate School and advisors in graduate programs are available to assist student-athletes with the application process.
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. Other Schools that confer graduate or professional degrees, such as the Kenan-Flagler Business School or School of Law, have their own admissions process. Graduate School Admissions and admissions offices at other Schools conferring graduate or professional degrees, monitor 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.
All applications are considered by the individual graduate programs. Each program submits admission decisions back to the Graduate School, which communicates decisions to all applicants on a rolling basis throughout the year. Other Schools follow a similar process and communicate their admission decisions directly to applicants.