Campus Spotlight: University of Florida
The University of Florida is a large, public research university. Founded in 1853, UF now ranks in the top five of public universities according to U.S. News and World Report (2022). Located in the quintessential college town of Gainesville, UF is home to more than 52,000 students, of which a little over 37,000 are undergraduates. UF offers more than 120 undergraduate majors across 12 colleges and schools, as well as four pre-professional advising programs for students interested in attending medical, dental, law, or veterinary school. It also offers one of the largest and most-regarded online programs in the country, with 24 fully-online bachelor’s degrees as well as a hybrid online, on-campus program known as Pathway to Campus Enrollment (PaCE) that enrolls around 750 freshmen each year. As the flagship university of Florida, UF enrolls approximately 80% of its students from within the state, although in-state residents do not have a preferred status in the application process.
Academics & Honors Program
Over the past several years, UF has focused heavily on building its academic program with the goal of being known as much for academics as it is for sports. This investment is visible in the campus building projects, which include a new engineering building opened in 2021, a new data science building slated to open in 2023, and a new music building planned to open in 2024.
One notable aspect of UF is that although students indicate their intended major when applying to UF, there are no direct-entry programs. All incoming freshman students, including those who have earned their associate’s degree in conjunction with their high school diploma, are undeclared when entering the university. This gives students the freedom to take different classes and explore before formally declaring a major in their sophomore year. While there are a few limited-access majors with selective application requirements—nursing being the most notable of these—in general, a student who has met the general education requirements can declare any major they choose. The exceptions to this are students who are admitted through certain pathway programs, such as PaCE, Innovation Academy, and state college partnership programs. (Students who are especially interested in attending UF should research these programs carefully, as the admissions requirements are slightly different than for the main campus program).
UF also features a robust advising program that begins at freshman orientation, known as Preview. Students are first assigned a general academic advisor to determine their first-year classes. As they progress in their major, they will receive advising that is specific to their major and college. Students in any major are also eligible for pre-professional advising to ensure that they are well-prepared to apply to professional school.
For students looking for even more challenge, the UF Honors Program offers additional class options as well as tailored advising, engagement opportunities, scholarships, research options, and a Living-Learning Community. The Honors Program is selective, with only about 10% of UF undergrads being admitted. To apply, students must write two additional short essays, which are reviewed by the Honors Program. Students admitted to Honors generally fall at or above the 75th percentile of GPA and standardized test scores and have exceptional extracurricular involvement. If a student is not admitted to the Honors Program as a first-year, they may apply to join at the end of their freshman year, provided they meet the admission requirements. Students can also graduate with Honors even if they are not part of the Honors Program.
Admission to UF has become progressively more selective in recent years as the applicant pool has expanded. This year, the university received a record 65,000 applications for approximately 6,500 spots in the freshman class.
The middle 50% reflects the strong academic qualifications that UF expects, with a median GPA of 4.4-4.6 (weighted, recalculated), a median SAT of 1340-1490 and a median ACT of 29-33. UF uses the Student Self-Reported Academic Record (SSAR) and recalculates all applicant GPAs on a 4.0 scale with an additional 1.0 credit weight for any classes that are AP, IB, AICE or dual-enrollment in core areas. Classes with an Honors, Pre-AICE, Pre-AP or Pre-IB designation receive a 0.5 credit weight.
Although UF continues to require a standardized test score to be considered for admission—a policy set by the State University System Board of Governors for Florida—the recalculated GPA is the most important academic factor in admissions decisions. Admissions officers also pay close attention to the rigor of a student’s schedule relative to what was available at their school. UF wants to see that prospective students have challenged themselves to consistently take rigorous courses, including in the senior year.
As a holistic institution, UF also pays close attention to a student’s extracurricular involvement as well as their background and personal essay. Although there is no “right” way to be involved throughout high school, admissions officers want to see consistent involvement in areas that show a student’s interests and passions, whatever those might be. Admissions officers also take into account any family obligations and/or personal circumstances that have had a significant impact on a student’s high school experience.
It is important for students interested in UF to know that neither their intended major nor their intended start term (Summer B or Fall) will have an impact on the admissions decision. UF also does not consider demonstrated interest or legacy status. To receive priority consideration for their application, students must apply by the Nov. 1 deadline, and then meet subsequent SSAR and test score submission deadlines. Students who miss any of these deadlines are moved into the space-available applicant pool and are extremely unlikely to be admitted.
As a Southeastern Conference (SEC) school, UF is perhaps best-known for its top-ranked Division I sports programs. However, there are many other options for involvement on campus. UF boasts more than 1,000 student-led clubs and organizations, including everything from the Falling Gators Skydiving Club to an award-winning Rock, Paper, Scissors club. There’s even a club to help students find a club that matches their interests. UF also has a thriving student government with an annual budget of more than $20 million. The UF student government plans many campus activities for students throughout the year. One of the favorite campus traditions is Gator Growl, the largest student-run pep rally in the nation, which happens each year at Homecoming in October. After graduation, students stay connected through one of the strongest alumni networks in the country with more than 450,000 living alumni.
UF has also spent considerable time and resources in the last several years developing student support services that include counseling, mental health and wellness, multicultural and affinity groups as well as both peer and professional mentoring and academic support.
Outside of campus, students are able to take advantage of the resources and amenities that Gainesville offers, which include museums, theaters and many outdoor recreation options. There is also an abundance of student housing, as students are never required to live on campus at any point. About 80% of freshmen do choose to live on campus, but after that many move to apartments around Gainesville. Students are allowed to bring a car as early as their freshman year, although parking is difficult to find. Cars also aren’t necessary, since UF is an easily walkable campus. Gainesville also offers a free bus system for students and recently implemented a popular scooter-sharing program.
Scholarships and Financial Aid
UF is consistently recognized as having one of the lowest tuition prices in the country relative to its peer institutions. Florida residents are also able to take advantage of the Bright Futures scholarship program, which makes UF an especially affordable option. UF does offer a limited number of merit scholarships to both in-state and out-of-state students, but these are extremely competitive. In terms of financial aid options, UF requires the FAFSA for aid consideration. UF does not commit to meet all demonstrated aid, but does offer financial aid of some kind to approximately 85% of undergraduates. Approximately two-thirds of UF undergraduates will graduate without any student loan debt.
For students looking for a generally affordable, high-quality academic experience alongside the many resources and thriving campus life offered by a large public university, the University of Florida is worth considering.