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UT Austin CAP Program: It's Not You, It's Me...

Updated: Jan 3

It is a stressful feeling when after a second date, the recipient of one’s budding affection utters the difficult rejection that we are all loath to hear: “It’s not you, it’s me…” Whether truthful or not, this polite copout is as old as dating, and it is used in college admissions lingo just as often. Usually it begins with an institution “regretting to inform you” or couching the letdown with a kind yet generic aphorism.

It is a rare student who gets accepted into every single college they’ve applied to, but that is the nature of the college admissions game. You can’t, as they say, win ‘em all. But what of UT Austin’s CAP, or Coordinated Admissions Program. Is this an acceptance? A rejection? Something in between? It does, in some ways, smack of the ‘It’s not you (good student not in the top 6%), it’s me (college with tens of thousands of qualified applicants and not enough seats)” letdown. The sneaky thing is that UT Austin often uses CAP as a soft letdown to students instead of outright rejecting them.

Let’s unpack what a UT Austin CAP offer really means. Then you can decide for yourself whether or not it is a good choice for you and your college goals. 

What is it?

UT Austin’s CAP program is an alternative admissions option whereby the student attends a select UT system school for their freshman year and, when certain requirements are met, is admitted into the UT Austin College of Liberal Arts (COLA) as a sophomore. Admission into COLA is guaranteed, though the major within the college is not. Certain majors, especially the ever popular Economics, Psychology or Sociology, are absolutely not a given for any applicant, and that includes CAP sophomores. 

If you wish to major in disciplines housed in other colleges, the website does mention that you may compete for admissions to other programs, but it does not mention whether CAP will give you an advantage as a transfer student over other applicants. Don’t count on it. 

Bottom line: If you wish to major in disciplines outside of COLA, it is probably a better idea to attend elsewhere. In addition, understand that even within COLA, students may not get the major they want. CAP is a risk in that regard.

The Alternate UT System Schools:

As a CAP student, you will not need to re-apply to your alternate school, but each one has different enrollment requirements and therefore may not accept all students who make the request. The alternatives are:

  • UT Arlington

  • UT El Paso

  • UT Permian Basin

  • UT Rio Grande Valley

  • UT San Antonio

  • UT Tyler

CAP students may not get their first choice, as some are more selective and popular than others. The UT Website states that about 1,000 students participate in CAP annually, but only ⅓ end up matriculating to UT Austin. Surely, some stay at their alternate option, but to be sure, not all ⅔ do. 

Bottom Line: You may not get your first choice alternate school, depending on the overall strength of your initial application. There appears to be a high attrition rate as well. The reason is open to speculation. 

Requirements to Complete CAP:

To be eligible to transfer to UT Austin through CAP, students need to have completed at least 30 credit hours at their UT system school with a cumulative GPA of 3.2, and only classes with a “C” or better are included in that average. As well, students need to complete a math class above the college algebra level. Students can take college algebra (Math 301) in the fall semester, but they must take a higher level math class and earn a “C” or better within the first year. 

If you have lots of AP or IB credits, there may not be 30 hours of coursework available to you that apply as transfer credits, so keep that in mind.

Bottom Line: Students need good grades and math skills to complete CAP, and 30 credits are required for CAP completion Note: only 24 are required for general transfer admission from any other college. 

Is CAP a Good Idea?

If you are a strong student who has their heart set on a degree from UT Austin AND that major falls into the College of Liberal Arts, then it could be a good fit for you.

If you want a major in anything that is not housed in COLA, or if you have a single-choice preference for your alternative UT system school, it is a bad idea. 

There are, however, several drawbacks:

  1. Social Adjustment - it is difficult to fully immerse yourself in the freshman year of school when your goal is to eventually not be there for long.

  2. Major Choice - there is no guarantee that you will get the major you want within COLA. 

  3. Major Exclusion - Architecture or Interior design are automatically excluded from accepting CAP students. CAP is a bad idea for all STEM majors, or anyone who wants to major in non-COLA subjects.

The Bottom Line: Look at your other acceptances carefully. Understand that CAP may be good for a select few students, but ultimately, it may be more fruitful to attend a school that believes you are an immediate fit. 

From college to dating, everyone wants to be welcomed with open arms to the next step of the relationship. Keep that in mind when decisions roll in, and know that what you do in college is much more important than where you go. 

Best luck, scholars!

Social media quote:

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.


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