A similar practice in the dramatic art and music departments has gone largely unnoticed.
Stephen Farmer, vice provost for enrollment and undergraduate admissions, said UNC admits about 180 to 190 special admits — including students involved in drama, music and athletics — each year.
Farmer said there are no more than 48 special admits to the drama and music departments annually. Only 24 slots are allotted to each department. A maximum of 12 out-of-state applicants can be admitted.
In 2014, Farmer said 23 music students and 15 drama students were specially admitted into UNC.
Ashley Memory, senior assistant director of admissions, said UNC has been specially admitting both music and dramatic arts students for their aptitude in the arts since the early 1990s.
“(We) would not admit any student who is not capable of succeeding here,” Memory said. “Students must meet minimum course requirements, and their history in high school must demonstrate that they would be capable of succeeding here in Carolina.”
I n the early 1990s, UNC developed a Committee on Special Talent for students whose aptitude in arts and athletics may serve as a basis for admission. These special admits are referred to faculty within the drama, music and athletic departments to better ascertain their strengths and to decide whether to recommend them for admission.
“In a lot of ways, the term ‘special admissions’ is an unfortunate term,” Farmer said.
“The students who are evaluated and recommended in this way are fully capable of succeeding academically at the University. What we are doing with the process really is asking experts from these different areas to evaluate the talent these students have and then to help us understand how extraordinary the talent is or how extraordinary it isn’t.”
Farmer said the undergraduate admissions department sometimes relies on other faculty members to determine the quality of a student’s dramatic or musical talent.
“I think the thing to remember about these students is that they’re evaluated as students as well,” he said.
“The evaluation of their talent is an additional step we take in trying to understand them fully and to treat them fairly at the admissions process here at UNC.”
Adam Versenyi, chairman of the Department of Dramatic Art, said special admits to the department are screened for their ingenuity and their potential to create a thriving arts culture at UNC.
“Dramatic art seeks to bring dynamic theater talent to (a) campus comprised of individuals who will enrich the community through their contributions in the classroom and in extracurricular theatrical productions,” he said in an email.
Jeffrey Blair Cornell, an associate chair of the drama department who also serves as a dramatic arts consultant for the Committee on Special Talent, said most drama applicants are encouraged to schedule a department interview.
As a consultant, Cornell is allowed to contribute a recommendation to an applicant’s file as one of many criteria that admissions considers before deciding to offer enrollment.
“We look at their student record of achievement in theater, and that gives us a good idea of how hard these people work, how dedicated they are and what they are likely to do if they are admitted to Carolina,” Cornell said.
“There’s also that special impression that someone gives you during an interview. We all know what that’s like when we interview someone, and we think, ‘Hey, that person’s got that spark; they got that twinkle in their eye, and I can tell that they are excited about this,’” he said.
Farmer said there are other factors besides talent, such as leadership and community involvement, that help admissions determine how a student will fit into the Carolina community as a whole.
“People come to us from so many different walks of life and with so many gifts,” he said. “They come together to form a community. That’s the way I hope people think about their classmates — ‘I belong here, my classmates belong here, let’s make something good of the time we have together.’”