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Faculty reflect on undergrad application season for business and journalism schools


A UNC student examines the Kenan-Flagler Business School application on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2020. 

As the fall application season for UNC's undergraduate programs at professional schools comes to a close, three UNC faculty members shared their insight on changes to this year’s application process and advice for applicants. 

The Hussman School of Journalism and Media 

Even with all the uncertainty for the future, Charlie Tuggle, the senior associate dean at the Hussman school, said that the number of applications to the journalism school are almost identical to what they were last fall. The application to the Hussman school is due on Sept. 15 by 11:59 p.m.

Tuggle said the strong support system provided by the UNC Hussman Undergraduate Hub and by the Hussman community as a whole has helped ease the strain of COVID-19 on students. 

“We’re slogging through this thing together," he said. "I think that’s part of what attracts people to our school.”  

When it comes to what it takes to get into the Hussman School, Tuggle said that showing a specific passion for media and journalism is key. 

Tuggle said in essays, he wants to see students who are personally connected to media and journalism, such as having a background in the field before applying. 

"I’m looking for folks who demonstrate that fire in the belly," he said. "If, on top of that, they embrace the Hussman principles, that’s a really good candidate.”

The Kenan-Flagler Business School

Wendell Gilland, associate dean of the undergraduate business program at UNC, said that while the application process has stayed the same for the most part, the biggest difference on the admissions side was UNC's new pass/fail policy. 

“One of the things we have had as a benchmark to assess people’s ability to learn the types of material that they need as part of the business major is how they’ve done in their prerequisite courses — so it’s a little more difficult to assess that given that many students are going to be submitting courses that are graded pass/fail,” Gilland said. 

The application for the business school was due on Sept. 6. Gilland said the amount of applications for the business school were not negatively impacted this year. He said the school has seen about 7 percent more applications for the business major and 10 percent more for the business minor than last year. 

He said the school is planning to expand the number of people it admits into the major by about 5 percent and the number of people that it admits into the minor by about 8 percent.

With regard to inclusion in the admissions process, Gilland said that the business school has been focusing on creating a diverse application pool. 

“Now that we’ve specifically articulated inclusion as one of our core values, we’ll hopefully make that message more clear across campus," he said. "Of the applicants that we’ve received, this pool, 17 percent are part of an underrepresented minority, 12 percent are first-generation college students and so those are numbers that we track very carefully and are always striving to increase.” 

For the application itself, Gilland said that it is crucial to be well-rounded. He said the biggest problem he sees in applicants are people who focus on academics without looking for ways to be engaged in the UNC community. He said he wants to see people who are engaged with the application process and the business school process. 

“The more involved somebody can be in the business school process during that first year, the better," he said. "All of our clubs at the business school are open to first-year students, so that’s a great opportunity for someone to show that they’ve got a true, genuine interest in business.

"Expressing that interest and showing actions that back up that expression are really critical.” 

A word of advice for future applicants

While receiving admissions results can be an important moment in a student’s life, C.J. Skender, a UNC accounting professor, said he cautions students against placing too much importance on acceptance to a particular school. 

“It’s not something to stress about," he said. "There’s going to be other things along the line, it’s just one of many things that you apply for over many years,” he said. 

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Skender said to also be aware of other options besides one ideal school. 

“It might not be the conventional way, but there’s a lot of people who have made a good living not doing things the conventional way," he said.