Applicants to Virginia Tech exceed 30,000 for second straight year

This year marks the second consecutive year, and only the second time in history that more than 30,000 students applied to Virginia Tech!

The university intends to enroll 6,600 incoming first-year students, a 400-seat increase from last year’s class. Even with this increase, students who were offered spots have a strong academic profile, with an average GPA of 4.10 and average SAT score of 1320. Regular admissions decisions were sent out to prospective students this week, and Virginia Tech is celebrating its most diverse pool of applicants ever. Additionally, the 2019 pool more closely reflects the composition of the commonwealth.

The university revamped its application process last year to remove barriers to admission. By taking a broader look at the abilities of applicants, these changes yielded an increased number of offers to “legacy” students, as well as underserved and underrepresented students. Virginia Tech saw an increase in applications of 4% by first-generation students, 3% by Hispanic/Latino students, 13% by African-American students, 19% by Native American students, and 16% by veterans. Virginia Tech also offered more “legacy” students who have a parent or sibling who previously attended.

“We are gratified to see that, through changes to better serve the university, we have admitted the most diverse applicant pool in our history,” said Juan Espinoza, associate vice provost for enrollment management and director of undergraduate admissions. “The new application process hasn’t just increased diversity, but also made the student experience more positive and more streamlined, saved people money and made the process more fair.”

“It’s truly been thrilling to see the talent and potential in these application numbers,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke. “Virginia Tech is taking steps to execute President Tim Sands’ vision, but also to keep pace with the changing demographics of the commonwealth. We take seriously our commitment as a land-grant university, and the diversity of our applicants demonstrates that. The changes made in the undergraduate admissions office this last year have been transformational.”

Sands has outlined the Beyond Boundaries Scholars goal for 40% of Tech’s student body to be made up of underrepresented, first-generation, or lower-income students by 2022. The positive increases in the 2019 pool came largely through a series of changes to the recruitment and application process.

“We have worked diligently to remove barriers that have traditionally stood in the way of many prospective applicants, by implementing new technologies and adopting best practices,” said Luisa Havens Gerardo, Virginia Tech’s vice provost for enrollment management. “These innovative changes are significantly transforming admissions, allowing us to streamline processes and attract more high-potential, brilliant students who will contribute tremendously to the future of Virginia Tech.”

The biggest change involved shifting to an application platform developed by the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success. This application, also used by 150 colleges and universities including the University of Virginia, College of William & Mary, and James Madison University, is designed through the lens of a first-generation student. Focused on access, the Coalition application includes questions that give Virginia Tech a better picture of barriers for applicants from low-income families. One result is an expanded percentage of applicants who were eligible for a fee waiver.

Virginia Tech also became the first college in Virginia to allow students to self-report their grades and test scores online. The change decreased the time needed to process an application from six to eight weeks to, in many cases, one to two weeks. Additionally, the university expanded its application options from a binding early decision and nonbinding regular decision to include a nonbinding early action. The university received about 20,000 applications through the new early-action option, about twice as many as early decision and regular decision combined.

Many of the offers included financial aid notifications, as part of greater collaboration between Admissions and the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid to support students from admission to graduation. This collaboration includes a partnership with RaiseMe, a micro-scholarship platform to award students money for their achievements during high school.

A more broad-based change came with the training of 180 faculty and staff who reviewed application essays. These volunteers from across campus read more than 127,000 essays. The review process allowed Virginia Tech to expand the criteria used in the holistic review process to include students’ leadership, service, resilience, and ability to set long-term goals, while also building community support for incoming students.

“In previous years, when we say, ‘You’ve been offered admission,’ it’s the admissions office making that decision,” Espinoza said. “Now it’s the campus community saying, ‘We’ve reviewed your application, we think you’re a good fit, and we’re excited about you being part of the Hokie Nation.’”