BYU entrance competition intimidates high school seniors

Statistics for incoming BYU freshmen show increasing competition, raising the bar higher for high school seniors.

BYU has seen an increase of over 50 percent in the number of applications since 2005, according to the Pacific Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers Review. Roughly 8,500 people applied in 2005, while nearly 13,000 applied in 2016.

Just over half of BYU applicants were accepted in 2016. (Carley Porter)
Just over half of BYU applicants were accepted in 2016. Statistics from BYU News. (Carley Porter)

Additionally, the average applicants’ ACT scores, average GPA and involvement in extracurricular activities have all increased.

“Our students self-select out of applying for BYU because they can’t make that standard,” Provo High School college and career coordinator Andrea Betts said.

Betts said the number of students applying to BYU from Provo High School is much smaller than that of its sister school, Timpview. She said Provo High is not even a top ten school in Utah for number of BYU applicants.

“The bulk of our students go to UVU,” Betts said. “They don’t see it as a second choice.”

But Betts said some Provo High students are devastated when they do not get into BYU, especially if it is their dream school. BYU accepts only about half of its applicants.

Nothing can be done to change the high entrance standard because of the students who are applying, according to Betts.

“But it makes it unattainable for a lot of kids on this campus, for sure,” Betts said.

Extracurricular activities

2016 statistics show incoming BYU freshmen were very involved in extracurricular activities in high school.

High percentages of accepted BYU applicants in 2016 were involved in extracurricular activities in high school. (Graphic by Chuck Dearden)
High percentages of accepted BYU applicants in 2016 were involved in extracurricular activities in high school. (Graphic by Chuck Dearden)

High school students hoping to be accepted to BYU feel pressured to participate in several extracurricular activities to appear well rounded on applications.

“I probably wouldn’t still be in (National Honor Society), except it looks good on applications,” said Mountain View High School senior Todd Goodman. “Student council is tough, but what pushed me over the edge is that it also looked good on applications.”

Todd Goodman and his twin brother, Brian Goodman, recently applied to BYU and are waiting to find out whether they are accepted. As players on the school basketball team, seminary students, student council members and National Honor Society members, they hope to appear well rounded on their BYU applications.

Mountain View High School senior Marie Ball is involved with several time-consuming extracurriculars, including choir and sports. Ball said her biggest difficulty was setting aside time to complete the application.

“One thing I did to prepare for the application was to keep a record of things I was involved in: service and service hours, leadership opportunities, as well as awards I have received,” Ball said.

GPA and ACT

In 2007, 27 percent of incoming freshman scored 30 or higher on the ACT, according to Pacrao Review. The most recent statistics from 2016 show more than 50 percent of incoming freshmen scored higher than 30.

Fifteen percent of incoming BYU freshmen ranked in the top five of their class in 2007; 2016 statistics show just under 25 percent of incoming freshmen ranked in the top five.

When a student comes to Betts wanting to get into BYU, Betts said she doesn’t discourage them from applying, but won’t give them false expectations either.

“I let them know how competitive the program is and tell them things I’ve learned at conferences, like what is the average ACT score,” Betts said.

Betts recalled one such experience she had with a Provo High student. She said his GPA and ACT were both well below BYU’s expectations, but the student was determined to apply.

“OK, you apply,” Betts told the student. “But know that these are the standards, and it is not very likely that you can move your GPA this late in the game. And to retake the ACT and move it up 13 points — you would be an amazing phenomenon.”

She said she encouraged the student to apply to another school or two and think about getting an associate degree at UVU and then trying to transfer to BYU.

“I don’t want to dash students’ hopes and dreams of going to BYU, but I also want to give them some reality,” Betts said, adding that she encourages students to have a backup plan.

Brian Goodman said he and his brother originally feared their ACT scores to be their weak spot in their BYU applications, so they got help and retook the test until they scored above BYU’s average score for incoming freshman.

“It’s still pretty nerve-wracking because (the average ACT score) is so high compared to other colleges,” Brian Goodman said.

McKenna Park

McKenna Park is an aspiring journalist studying at Brigham Young University.

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