Five questions with Mike Hughes, assistant dean of academic and enrollment services, and director, undergraduate admission.
How do you decide who gets admitted to USF?
We make sure students are academically qualified. We’ve raised the academic profile substantially
in the time I’ve been at USF. We look for the contributions that students will make to USF in and out of the classroom. Most of our applicants are drawn to USF by our mission to serve others, so for the most part, they bring a lot of service, concern for sustainability, and interest in global issues to the process. That means they’re choosing us for the right reasons.
Mike, you’ve been director of undergraduate admission at USF for five years. How have things changed in that time?
We’ve seen a peak and slight decline in numbers of graduating high school students. Students
who are now graduating now are more diverse, which is a good match for USF. This, coupled with the economy and the state of California’s public universities, has meant an increase in transfer students, for which we are well prepared. And, of course, the climate of higher education is much more volatile, which has meant more competition among private institutions for the well-qualified students we want at USF. And technology has changed, not only for processing applications,
but also for recruiting – social networking platforms are a good example.
How many applications did you receive this year for how many spots?
More than 10,000 for the first time in USF history, 10,850 and counting. That’s a lot of transcripts, essays, and letters to read, but they’re all important. We’ve projected a class of 1,510, including freshmen and transfer students, and that would be our largest class ever. When I started working in the admission office in 1998, we received about 4,500 applications and enrolled a fall 1999 class of 1,097 freshmen and transfers.
What are some of the strangest things you’ve seen on applications?
Letters of recommendation from counselors who tell us we’d be making a mistake if we admitted the applicant! You would think the student would clear that up before they had the letter sent.
What advice would you give prospective students?
I deplore the media frenzy on competition to get into selective colleges. The truth is that most students get into their top choice schools, and only a very small percentage of universities are hyper-selective. That means there are a lot of excellent choices that will meet each student’s needs, including important financial considerations. I always tell students and families that instead of creating needless anxiety, they should create choices. Good grades, good test scores, and good research and planning will pay off in April when families can look at all of the admit letters and
financial aid offers they’ve received and make the best decision. We always hope their choice is USF!