The Academic Excellence Scholarship, established at UTD in 1992, has become increasingly difficult to earn.
Over the years, the university has undergone significant expansion and the number of students accepted into the university — plus the scores needed for a scholarship — have increased.
“The growing number of applications we receive has resulted in increased competition,” said Wray Weldon, assistant provost for the Office of Admission and Enrollment Services.
In just 10 years, enrollment has increased from about 14,000 students to more than 23,000 students.
The admissions process has become more personal, Weldon said, and various factors, including scholarships, have attributed to the school’s expansion. Students attest to the fact that scholarships, especially AES, are one of the biggest factors that drew them to the university.
Maryam Riaz, a recipient of the scholarship last year, said that increasing numbers of prospective students fear not getting a scholarship because they’ve heard that it’s become progressively difficult and the requirements have become more stringent.
“As UTD is becoming a bigger institution and aiming toward becoming a Tier One school, the scholarships have become harder to attain, making (UTD) a more competitive school,” Riaz said.
The scholarships are rewarded based primarily on GPA, SAT and ACT scores, and things such as International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement courses also play an important role said Executive Vice President and Provost Hobson Wildenthal, who helped create the AES program. The scholarship’s webpage states that the quality of each incoming class as measured by SAT and ACT scores has increased significantly, and thus, the scholarships have become more competitive.
Wildenthal confirmed that the SAT and ACT scores of incoming students are increasing, and the percentage of admitted freshmen receiving AES scholarships was decreasing. From fall 2010 to fall 2014, the number of freshmen who received an AES offer went down by 16 percent.
Currently, the average test scores for an AES of $3,000 per semester is a 30 on the ACT and a 1315 on the SAT’s critical reading and math sections combined. The average test scores for the highest scholarships, which cover all tuition and provide a $3,000 stipend per semester, is a 34 on the ACT and a 1510 on the SAT’s critical reading and math sections combined.
One of the main purposes of the program, Wildenthal said, was to increase enrollment of academically able students. In the fall of 1992, UTD had 95 freshmen. By the fall of 1993, there were 452 freshmen.
“The difference was the beginnings of the AES program,” Wildenthal said.
One of the program’s goals is to ensure a good enrollment and then create a domino effect that convinces the community that the university is reputable and encourages other students to attend as well, whether they have a scholarship or not, Wildenthal said.
AES also helps create a strong alumni group and is a way of investing for the future, he said.