He can be a UF Gator- But There's a Catch


Dear Dr. Sterk
My son is senior (12th grade) completing an IB program. He applied to 3 universities, UF, USF, and FSU for computer engineering. He got admissions from all 3 universities. USF gave him a $3000 scholarship per year, and he is eligible for Florida Academic Scholarship of Bright Futures.

My main question is: He got into UF but there is a catch. He received admissions to the Gator Engineering at Santa Fe. This means he would do the first 3 semesters at Santa Fe College and if he gets the required tracking course GPA during the first semester, he will be considered as a UF student. If not, he has to wait until he gets that GPA and after getting the required tracking course GPA, he will be considered UF student. He has to take courses at Santa Fe College for total 3 semesters and then he will be attending completely at UF.

So we are confused about this hybrid approach.

We attended the information session at Santa Fe College, and we are not that impressed. They are saying that the class size will be small and more individual attention to students, etc. We are interested in UF as it is prestigious university but not sure about this path. It seems all of his classmates are going straight to UF or USF and none are going this route.

We are curious your opinion and what to do next?

Thank you- Parent

Dear Parent,
First of all, thank you for following UnMazed. I am proud of all the resources available to families.

That is a very interesting question and a hard decision that your family will have to make. In the end, it comes down to both short term and long term goals. 

Engineering programs are by far the hardest to get into in our SUS system, and why you often see other students with less stellar credentials getting admissions and direct-entry without summer or these types of 2+2 programs with other degree choices (business, marketing, history, etc). All three schools mentioned, USF, FSU, and UF, have amazing programs, with great internship opportunities.

Some things to consider-

1. If he chooses a direct-admit program (USF & FSU) will he get involved on campus? How will he differentiate himself from all of the other students? Will he take that opportunity to become involved from the beginning- using his additional 18 months to the fullest advantage?

2. Would a smaller environment that Santa Fe offers be a better fit for him to take the pre-requisite courses? What would happen if he does not earn the requisite GPA needed to matriculate to UF? This is especially true in the mathematics courses- did he pass math with all A's and pass all of his IB exams with high marks? Taking advanced Calculus, Physics and other computer courses are often extremely challenging- which is one reason engineering has one of the lowest retention rates (meaning how many people start a program and finish) of any of the programs, biology and chemistry as well. Calc I is often seen as a “separator course” - those that can do it, and those who can’t. So the small setting might be good, IF your son takes advantage of it and it would help him keep this GPA up.

3. How would he feel transitioning from one college to another after a year and a half? This includes socially, emotionally, academically, etc. While some of his peers would be matriculating with him, how would he feel starting fresh on a new campus? Does he make friends easily?

My suggestion- go visit all three colleges again. Talk to the individual departments, see the campus with new eyes, and ask questions that are meaningful, like "What are the opportunities am I presented here?" "Where can I be most successful?" and "Do I see myself being HERE?"

In the end, the terminal degree (where did you graduate from) is an important question, however, who you are and what you accomplished while there is even more so. So he needs to find where he can be his best self. If that is at Santa Fe and then onto UF, great. If that is directly enrolling into USF or FSU- that is great too. I have always believed the saying, “There are many paths to one summit.” Each student has to find their own journey, some can scale the steep side of the mountain to get to the top, other students take a different, more meandering path. In the end, the view is the same at the top- it truly is the journey of getting there.

I hope that helps!! Keep me posted on his decision- I am interested to know what he chose!

Dr. Sterk