“We had assumed that if some rigor was good, more would be better,” said Stephen Farmer, vice provost for enrollment and undergraduate admissions. “We started thinking six to seven APs was a decent course load.”
The admissions office found that though there is a correlation between a student’s high school course load and that student’s performance in his or her first year at UNC, there is a point where this levels off and other qualities are more important.
“Some things are hard to quantify: courage, intellect, bravery,” said Ashley Memory, senior assistant director of admissions.
The department also knows that neither Advanced Placement courses nor high-quality academic counseling — which might push students to take a heavier course load — are available in every school. This is a problem for an office that aims to give a fair chance to each student who applies.
Aspiring Tar Heels sometimes go to great lengths to make their applications stand out, admissions officials said.
“A student sent a poster of herself spray-mounted on foam core,” Memory said.
One applicant sent in her self-portrait attached to helium balloons, meant to rise out of the box when opened, Farmer said.
The creativity comes from the growing pressure high schoolers feel to secure a spot at a good university, admissions officials said.