How BYU’s admissions criteria compares to other church and Utah schools

A graphic depicting admission rates from various Utah and church schools. As BYU releases admission decisions for upcoming terms and semesters, some students and their families may wonder what goes into those decisions. (Danny Burnham)

As incoming freshmen receive admissions decisions, some students and their families may wonder what goes into the decision-making process.

University spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said BYU implemented a holistic review this year that doesn’t use a fixed-point system, meaning the school considers official high school transcripts and ACT/SAT scores; an ecclesiastical endorsement; recommendations from a seminary teacher, high school teacher and one person who isn’t a relative; and four completed essays in which “applicants are expected to be genuine and use their best writing skills.”

She also said the university looks at an applicant’s involvement in extracurricular activities and BYU is “aware of, and sensitive to, the unique dynamics of first-generation college students.” However, there are no quotas in BYU’s admission process where they must meet a specific ratio or admit a particular demographic.

“I think it’s also important to note that BYU is constantly revising and updating its admission process,” Jenkins said.

The BYU admissions website states, “A BYU student is prepared academically, spiritually and through engaging in extracurricular activities.”

It further says BYU looks for students who exemplify the four aims of a BYU education: spiritually strengthening, intellectually enlarging, character building and leading to lifelong learning and service. No specific extracurricular activities are considered more important than others, and a particular GPA or ACT score does not guarantee admission or denial.

“There is no secret formula for admission to BYU,” the page says.

However, on Nov. 28, non-profit media organization MormonLeaks released seven documents showing BYU’s admission index gave an extra point to male applicants for several years.

The documents break down the BYU admissions process for new freshman from 2012 through 2014 and include factors such as years in seminary, extracurricular activities and geographical area. Each factor gave the applicant a certain number of points out of 100 total points, and certain categories, such as a bishop’s endorsement, were all-or-nothing.

Jenkins said BYU stopped weighting for gender in spring 2015, and the university no longer uses a fixed-point system.

Here’s how other Utah and church schools admissions criteria compare to BYU’s.

Brigham Young University-Idaho

BYU-Idaho’s admissions website states the university reviews applicants in five main areas: church endorsements, academic achievement, seminary, extracurricular activities and essays. It also states students are expected to be worthy of an ecclesiastical endorsement, must be seminary graduates with a positive seminary recommendation and must commit to live by the Honor Code.

The school’s admissions website continues that “academic achievement will be represented by grade point average and performance on standardized tests.”

For new freshmen and transfer students, minimums are listed as a 2.0 high school GPA, at least 16 on the ACT and at least 860 on the SAT if taken after March 2016, or 770 if taken before March 2016.

Admissions Director Tyler Williams did not return requests for comment.

Brigham Young University-Hawaii

Director of Admissions and Recruitment James Faustino said BYU-Hawaii uses a holistic evaluation with various criteria that may change from year to year.

The school doesn’t reveal its index due to these yearly changes, but Faustino said they advertise their minimums and competitive scores. The admissions website currently lists the minimum ACT score as 21, or 25+ to be competitive, and a minimum SAT score of 1130. 

Faustino said admissions officers consider a student’s high school transcripts and ACT scores, but if those numbers are low, other aspects of the application may compensate for deficiencies.

“That’s what happens with a holistic evaluation, if they have numerous other factors they can bring to the table,” he said.

However, he added if a student’s GPA is well below a certain number, then a natural breaking point occurs where other factors can’t compensate for ACT, GPA and other scores.

BYU-Hawaii’s admissions website states the school plays “a unique role and mission in furthering the education of people in the Pacific Basin” and gives priority to students from the Pacific Islands and East Asia.

As at other Church Educational System schools, admitted students are expected to receive an ecclesiastical endorsement from a church leader and abide by the Honor Code.

Other factors considered “very important” in the admissions process include a 3.0 or better high school GPA, church service (with extra consideration given to returned missionaries), the application’s essay portion and a prospective student’s financial situation.

University of Utah

Mary G. Parker, associate vice president of enrollment management, said the school evaluates applicants through a holistic process, which “helps ensure we give all students the best opportunity to present a complete picture of their qualifications.”

According to the University of Utah admissions website, primary freshman admission standards include rigorous classes throughout high school, such as honors, AP or IB courses; cumulative and unweighted GPA; and “excellence in academic achievement, intellectual pursuits and creative endeavors.”

Secondary freshman admission standards include academic achievement or awards, involvement in clubs, athletics or other extracurriculars, and “significant commitment” to community engagement.

Utah State University

A Utah State University admissions office employee directed inquiries to the school’s admissions website, which includes an index that “determines eligibility for admission and scholarships.”

The website also includes an index calculator, which allows prospective students to enter information about themselves to determine a potential index number. The index, however, does not indicate the cutoff for an applicant’s admission or scholarship decision.

Director of Admissions Jeff Sorensen said the overriding goal is to provide access and opportunity to students wherever they may be across the state.

“We’re really just looking to admit students based on their ability to be successful at the University,” he said. “(If we) feel like their high school grades and ACT scores show that they have that ability to come here and be successful in a rigorous program, we’ll go ahead and admit them, but the goal really is to admit as many as we possibly can that we think will be able to be successful here.”

Westminster College

Ron Headings, associate vice president for enrollment management, said the admissions process is based primarily on ACT, GPA, and an essay or personal writing, and that these three factors help determine whether someone is a good fit for their college.

“The Westminster campus is an easy-going, laid-back and friendly place,” their admissions website states. “We welcome students from all backgrounds and cultures and value diverse interests and talents.”

Southern Utah University

A call to the admissions office was directed to the university’s admissions website, which states an index is used to admit first-time freshmen.

A prospective student’s index number is derived from a combination of GPA and the composite of either ACT or SAT scores. Students with an index of 90 or higher are automatically admitted, while students with an index of lower than 90 may be admitted after a secondary review.

Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management Brandon Wright and Assistant Director of Admissions and Recruitment Amie Tukuafu did not return requests for comment.

Open Enrollment

According to, Weber State UniversityUtah Valley UniversitySalt Lake Community CollegeLDS Business College, Dixie State University, Snow College and Utah State University College of Eastern Utah are open enrollment schools, meaning they only require a high school diploma or equivalent for admission. 

However, LDS Business College Public Affairs Manager Pete Codella said in determining admissions eligibility, their committee “reviews academic and non-academic variables in a holistic approach.” They do not use an index or point-based system. He referred to their website for additional information.

In addition, Snow College Admissions Advisor Shane Jonson said they want students who will contribute to their small, affordable campus and who want to get involved.

“So we want students that think that those things are important and want to actually make a difference as freshman students right away,” he said.

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