UK Sets New Records for Honors Program, National Merit Scholars

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Updated: 3/20/2013 1:58 pm

LEXINGTON, Ky. An intense focus on academic and student quality at UK is reaping dividends, as evidenced by record results in both the current and upcoming first-year classes (fall 2012 and fall 2013).

UK President Eli Capilouto reported to the Board of Trustees Tuesday that UK ranks 11th among public universities (out of 123 public institutions), and 30th among public and private universities (out of 335 public and private institutions) in the number of National Merit/National Achievement Scholars in the Fall 2012 first-year class, according to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation’s annual report.

Capilouto also cited preliminary numbers from the expanding and revitalized Honors Program in which applications have more than doubled, while the academic quality of students applying continues to increase as well.

"These results -- a reflection of the quality of students attracted to UK -- underscore the work of our incredible faculty and the revitalization that is taking place on our campus, which is another example that we place students first in everything we do at UK. There is incredible momentum at UK academically and students and families want to be part of it," Capilouto said. "This dramatic increase in a short period of time also is a direct result of the efforts of our enrollment management team, led by Don Witt, which is doing an outstanding job telling the UK story."


With respect to National Merit/National Achievement Scholars, Capilouto said it was particularly noteworthy that UK, with 71 National Merit/National Achievement scholars, is ahead of some of the most prominent institutions in the country, including: Emory (53), the University of Georgia (56), Michigan (53), Michigan State. (40), University of Virginia (35), Carnegie Melon (38), Johns Hopkins (32), New York University (28), Notre Dame (51), and Georgetown (39).


Moreover, institutions with similar numbers to UK include:  Auburn (62), BYU (65), University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (70), UT-Dallas (64), Carleton College (77), Dartmouth (79), University of Central Florida (68), Maryland (66), Cornell (66), Ohio State (62), UT-Austin (63), and Indiana (65).


These dividends are also affirmed through the success of the UK Honors Program. With a recently adapted curriculum that allows for a more personalized Honors experience, the program has experienced a record number of applicants for the fall class of 2013: more than 2,400 applications for a class of approximately 450. Last year's record application pool topped out at 1,200.

At the same time, the academic quality of the Honors Program applicants is outstanding, Capilouto said, including 15 students with a perfect ACT score and one more with a perfect SAT score.

The average ACT score for those admitted was a 32. Of the applicants offered admission to the program, 379 had a perfect 4.0 unweighted high school GPA; the average unweighted high school GPA for admitted students was a 3.93.

Capilouto lauded the dramatic progress that has been made, but noted that there is still work to do as Honors programs are becoming increasingly important to students when examining potential universities. For example, Capilouto said, the University of Georgia expects to have 25 percent of its first-year class of 5,000 students in Honors this coming fall. Capilouto believes that number will be a benchmark for UK and its competitors to measure themselves against going forward.

Honors Program Director and Interim Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education Benjamin C. Withers said that with these record numbers and a new Honors curriculum, it is an exciting time for the program and reflects a coming together of top-tier faculty, a new and more flexible curriculum, and revitalized facilities in the academic core of the campus.

"While the Honors Program at UK has always attracted Kentucky’s best students, the talent, intelligence and the abilities of the applicants this year are very impressive. As a result, the competition for incoming students to get in the program was simply astounding; we wish that we could have taken many more of these hardworking and deserving applicants," Withers said.

For example, the new structure of the Honors Program will allow individual students to link Honors courses within the curriculum to provide more coherency and consistency within their majors. Withers said the newly improved programming will also facilitate more interdepartmental discussion and collaboration. He hopes that faculty members, after teaching Honors courses, will bring back to their own colleges the discussions and discoveries they make from teaching the best and brightest at UK.

"President Capilouto has expressed a vision of Honors as a magnet, an intellectually attractive program that draws students from Kentucky and other states to Lexington,"

Withers said. "The ultimate goal is to help create a program that will stand as a symbol for the quality of education that students can get at UK, calling attention to the excellent teachers and students found in every college and department on campus."

The first new residence hall as part of the revitalization of student living spaces on campus will dedicate up to 450 beds out of 601 in total to Honors -- another example of the focus UK is placing on academic quality and collaborative learning environments and opportunities for students. UK hopes to build up to 9,000 new beds over the next five to seven years as part of a public-private partnership, unlike any in the country, to revitalize student housing.

"This new residence hall will provide yet another way for students to create friendships and form a lasting community," Withers said. "Having someone from Agriculture talk to someone from Arts and Sciences, or someone from Fine Arts interact with an engineer, is part of what Honors is all about."

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