“BYU Admissions Policy Has New Emphasis,” Ensign, Feb. 1983, 77
Brigham Young University’s Board of Trustees has approved a shift in admissions policy designed to emphasize more extensive academic preparation by high school students as they look toward higher education at BYU.
Although traditional standards of evaluation—grade point averages and ACT scores—will continue to influence admissions and scholarship evaluations, BYU President Jeffrey R. Holland has indicated that completion of basic courses in high school will enhance a student’s prospects of being admitted to the university.
“High school courses taken in college preparatory and advanced placement subjects,” explained President Holland, “will be given greater weight than the sometimes superficial attaining of high grades in less-than-substantial courses. We want to reward the serious students who have best prepared themselves to make the BYU experience count.”
He said that admissions and scholarship evaluators will be “more impressed” with a “B” in a challenging college preparatory course than with an “A” in some less strenuous discipline. He observed that “we want to counter the attitude of some college hopefuls who say, ‘I can’t jeopardize my academic future by taking tough courses.’”
BYU public communications director Paul Richards described the shift in policy as part of the university’s general education program. “Students should not spend time at college taking courses they could have had in high school,” he said. “We hope to encourage students to be better prepared for college before they arrive at BYU.” He pointed out that if students have taken college preparatory courses in high school, they will be able to move more quickly through general education requirements and enter their major subject areas.
The new policy may also allow more students to attend BYU, according to Brother Richards. Although the Board of Trustees has placed a limit on enrollment numbers, “students will be able to graduate sooner if they don’t have to spend time in preparatory classes. We hope to be able to admit more students in the future because it won’t take as long for continuing students to graduate.”
“President Holland emphasized that flexibility will be a key factor in admissions considerations. The program will be based on “strong recommendations” rather than strictly standardized requirements: “For example, prospective students who have not fulfilled all of BYU’s recommendations but have done well in ACT scores and grade point average will still receive the fairest of reviews. We strongly encourage such students to apply.”
Part of the “strong recommendations” will be an emphasis on student preparation in two basic areas—language and numbers. In the language area, four units of English are recommended. In numbers, the recommendation is at least two units of mathematics beyond basic algebra, preferably in geometry and intermediate algebra. Further, solid courses in social sciences, laboratory science, foreign language, and other college preparatory subjects will give applicants an advantage.
Keeping in mind the wide diversity of educational experience and quality available to high school students, President Holland indicated that each student’s record will be evaluated according to the curriculum offered at the particular high school attended. “We certainly will not discriminate against students from schools where the curriculum may be limited,” he said.
University admissions officers will continue to recognize students with special talents, exceptional creativity, and other unusual preparation not otherwise revealed in standard admission data.
The president also emphasized that because BYU is sponsored by the Church, the new admissions program has been structured to serve a broad spectrum of prospective students; but moral worthiness and adherence to Latter-day Saint standards will continue to be crucial to the student’s application. “We will make no compromises here,” he said. “A bishop’s confidential recommendation will still be basic to our admission procedure.”
Returning to academic considerations, President Holland shared his hope for the new policy’s effectiveness. “What we are saying to prospective BYU students,” he observed, “is that their high school years are very important and that they can have fine, strong learning experiences in secondary school. The responsibility for preparation,” President Holland said, “is placed squarely on their shoulders and the shoulders of their parents.”
“We hope our new policy will give senior high and even junior high school students additional incentive to enroll in challenging and advanced courses without fear of jeopardizing their admissions chances because of possible lower grades.”