At UNC Chapel Hill, we evaluate student-athletes for admission the same way we evaluate all candidates: individually, comprehensively and holistically. We know each student possesses a unique combination of strengths and talents, hopes and dreams that enrich the Carolina community. So the main question we try to answer is whether a student can succeed academically. We only admit students who we believe can thrive in our classrooms and, as you’ll read, our student-athletes are doing extremely well.

Toward this end, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions has worked closely with faculty to strengthen how the university assesses student-athletes’ classroom readiness, and the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes (ASPSA) has been overhauled to foster learning and classroom achievement. These reforms in admissions and academic support are part of the university’s renewed commitment to help all students, including student-athletes, achieve their fullest potential academically and personally.

The changes in admissions set clearer academic expectations for prospective student-athletes. Beyond meeting all requirements established by the University of North Carolina system, student-athletes must demonstrate that they are likely to exceed UNC Chapel Hill’s own standards for satisfactory academic progress, which apply to all undergraduates during their first year. Any applicant who does not meet the system requirements or our own higher expectations can be offered admission only after being reviewed in detail and approved by a faculty committee. Last year, 14 prospective student-athletes required this review – less than half the number from a decade ago. And as a result of these reforms, students admitted through this process are stronger academically and perform better once admitted.

The ASPSA supports Carolina’s 800 student-athletes in 28 varsity sports by strengthening their skills for success in the classroom and after they leave the university. Based on feedback from student-athletes and academic counselors, we developed the My Academic Plan initiative, an individualized program focused on academic preparedness, courses and specific needs. Each student-athlete in the program has mandatory weekly meetings with an academic counselor, and may also get tutoring, work with learning specialists, and participate in tailored group and guided study sessions led by trained professionals. In addition, student-athletes within the College of Arts and Sciences meet with an academic advisor at least once a semester to discuss course planning, major selections and curricular opportunities. Together, academic counselors and advisors provide student-athletes with a strong support network.

We both serve on the Student-Athlete Academic Initiative Working Group, a task force convened by the chancellor last summer and led by the provost and director of athletics. This group of faculty and administrators is examining every aspect of a student-athlete’s experience at Carolina, from recruitment and admission through graduation. We are reviewing all practices and policies affecting student-athletes and their academic success — including reforms already made – to identify additional opportunities for improvement.

These changes are already yielding results. As a group, the 201 first-year student-athletes enrolled in 2013 earned a collective B through their first semester. In fact, 329 UNC varsity student-athletes made the Atlantic Coast Conference’s 2012-2013 Academic Honor Roll with a 3.0 grade-point average or better for the school year – first among the ACC’s public institutions and third overall. And of the top 25 Bowl Championship Series schools, UNC’s student-athlete graduation rate over six years from enrollment is second among public universities and 14th overall. These results are a great tribute to our student-athletes and also to their coaches, who are fully committed to the academic and personal success of the young men and women on their rosters.

Carolina student-athletes perform in the classroom and in competition. Marcus Paige, a second-team 2014 Capital One Academic All-America, was the only ACC men’s basketball player selected for the honor. Loren Shealy, a Robertson Scholar from Charlotte, is the 2013 ACC Field Hockey Scholar-Athlete of the Year. And Mount Tabor High School graduate Kristen Aloi, a member of the gymnastics team, graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors and continues to compete as a graduate student.

Carolina has always enrolled students who inspire their classmates and who grow as citizens and leaders; who contribute to the university’s mission and ensure the betterment of the people of North Carolina. We are dedicated to providing the support and encourage-ment these young people need to succeed in academics and athletics at UNC so that they are well-prepared to lead and serve others after leaving Chapel Hill.

Stephen Farmer is the vice provost for enrollment and undergraduate admissions at UNC Chapel Hill. Michelle Brown is the director of the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes.

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