UNC System Admission Requirements

The summer recruiting seasons for both football and basketball are in full swing. While I don’t follow the latest mutterings of 16/17 year old kids, there is one thing that I haven’t seen any mention of…how any of the kids are doing with respect to the “new” admission requirements of the UNC system. I found that omission rather surprising because much was made over the last several years about how the new standards were going to have huge effects on State’s and UNC’s football teams.

Now I am not surprised that we haven’t seen anything about either school missing out on some hot prospect. Long before offers or commitments would have been made, the coaches from both schools would have scoped out where a kid stood with respect to the core classes required by the UNC system. So only the coaching staffs know who they would like to have offered, but couldn’t. And of course, even the coaches couldn’t know in most cases whether they could have gotten any particular kid.

So a few seconds with Google gave the following two links that summarize the UNC System admission requirements for all students and the NCAA core classes required for athletic eligibility:

UNC System Minimum Admission Standards

NCAA Minimum Eligibility Requirements

2004 and 2005

Let’s look at the difference between the NCAA minimum eligibility requirements for athletes and the UNC System minimum admission standards for all students at the 16 schools in the UNC system.

For freshmen entering school in 2004 and 2005, the differences between the two requirements are not substantial. The main difference is that the UNC system requirements essentially define what the “free electives‿ in the NCAA list an athlete has to take.

If I understand the NCAA eligibility standards correctly, an athlete’s GPA in these core courses is used to determine what SAT/ACT score is required to be eligible to play during their freshmen year. If I understand correctly, the label of “partial-qualifier‿ was done away with starting in 2005. At least the NCAA Guide for College-Bound Student Athletes no longer lists partial qualifiers as a category.

2006 and 2007

The changes become more noticeable starting with the freshmen class entering school in 2006. The change in the admission standards for the UNC system is high-lighted in red.

I do not know how many potential athletic offers were never made because of the gap between the NCAA’s minimum of two math classes and the UNC’s system requirement of 4 years. However, you would have to be pretty foolish to think that this difference had no effect on football and basketball recruiting at State and UNC.

2008 and Beyond

Starting in 2008, the NCAA will raise the requirements for athletic eligibility with the changes noted in red:

This change closes the gap between the requirements for athletes entering the UNC system and those at any other school in the country. The key differences are an extra year of math and science above the minimum athletic eligibility requirements.


I found the justification for raising admission requirements on the UNC system’s website quite amusing:

The Board took this action to ensure that freshmen have a strong chance of completing a baccalaureate degree. A study of 1997-98 North Carolina public high school seniors who enrolled at a UNC institution in the fall of 1998 found significant differences in performance among those students who met only the current minimum course requirements, those who met only the additional second language requirement, and those who met both the additional second language requirement and the additional fourth unit of mathematics requirement. Here is a summary of the study’s findings:

It must be horrible to be so highly educated and yet so stupid at the same time. Can I have a show of hands of everyone that believes taking two years of high school Spanish actually increases your chances of earning a college degree?

I would suggest that everyone who voted for the increased requirements based on the faulty reasoning quoted above be required to take an undergraduate course in History of Science. The class should be taught with a special emphasis on the faulty correlations made between cause and effect over the last three thousand years, starting with Aristotle and the Greek philosophers.

Of those kids that you personally know that didn’t finish college, how many left because they were unprepared for college academically and how many left because of a general lack of effort? If you are more socially aware than your average hermit, then you have known people in every area of life that strive to do their best and others that never do anything more than the minimum to get by.

When looking at the stats summarized in the UNC study, I was instantly reminded of the various factions in my high school. The best students took college prep classes in place of auto mechanics, brick laying, or drafting (with pencil and paper). While I wouldn’t want anyone to take Chemistry 101 at State without a year of high school chemistry, I was not more likely to graduate from college just because of a given high school class. I graduated from State in four years because of the work that I did while I was in Raleigh, not because of any specific class that I took at Hickory High School.

There are only two ways that the increased admission requirements will actually work to provide their intended effect:

- Bright kids that don’t actually work during high school will be shocked into doing homework for their college prep classes…and this somehow carries over to their college class work.

- Kids taking the college prep classes and don’t work in those classes will lower their GPA to point that they can’t get admitted in the first place…which will keep them from flunking out in the future.

You can decide which category has more kids.


It appears to me that the “gap‿ between UNC System requirements and NCAA athletic eligibility requirements are the most severe for the 2006 and 2007 freshmen classes. Starting in 2008, the differences are smaller and hopefully won’t seriously impact recruiting from that point on….at least until the pointy-headed fools on the UNC Board of Governors attempt more data analysis.


If credibility was measured in pennies, The News & Observer could not buy a gumball.

Bob Lee Swagger

About VaWolf82

Engineer living in Central Va. and senior curmudgeon amongst SFN authors One wife, two kids, one dog, four vehicles on insurance, and four phones on cell plan...looking forward to empty nest status. Graduated 1982

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20 Responses to UNC System Admission Requirements

  1. SaccoV 06/18/2006 at 4:54 PM #

    Interesting you mentioned History of Science. I took History of Technology with Mulholland (HS 341), and he and I discussed ad nauseum requirements for admission and for matriuclation, most of which were garbage anyway. I agree with the absurdity of the second language theory as well. Besides, if all the elementary emphasis on aquiring a second language works, students should have to take 2 years of a foreign language because they probably know the language fairly well up to that point. I don’t think the requirements are really going to affect either school, or any school, because as far as I understand it, the summer programs for admission are still active, which means regardless of a kid’s GPA or core requirements fulfilled, he or she can take some courses over the summer (either at State or anywhere else) and have those credits transferred or used to fulfill their requirements. Do you have any information on that aspect? Otherwise, great work.

  2. VaWolf82 06/18/2006 at 6:00 PM #

    he or she can take some courses over the summer (either at State or anywhere else) and have those credits transferred or used to fulfill their requirements. Do you have any information on that aspect?

    I don’t see how a student that doesn’t meet the minimum requirements for admission could somehow attend classes at State to reach those minimum requirements.

    I wondered about fulfilling the admission requirements at some community college, but have never seen anything that covered it. If you can go to Clemson, SC, VT, WF, Duke, UVa, etc without doing extra work at a community college, then how many would go through that just to attend State or UNC?

    One thing that I forgot to mention is that these UNC system requirements might impede ECU’s ability to take non-quals…especially from states outside of NC.

  3. Astral Rain 06/18/2006 at 8:12 PM #

    Actually, I could shoot a hole in this.

    The problem is (this did affect me, I still don’t know how I graduated)- smart kids don’t have to do work in high school, even in college prep, and then get shocked in their CH107/MA242 (you can breeze up to 242)/CSC114 type classes.

    The thing is- I don’t think this has a big effect- especially on UNC.

    1) Kids with sub-par academics tend to go pro earlier
    2) UNC, and somewhat, State- tend to be able to choose from a wider pool of candidates due to their reps.
    3) It’s not like athletes don’t get some breaks and mandatory study halls (unsure how effective they are, but I’m sure someone makes sure they do at least some of the work to stay eligible)

  4. graywolf 06/18/2006 at 8:56 PM #

    My take on this is as follows: we must do a great job at in state recruiting because in state recruits understand the academic guidelines. We must beat Carolina at recruiting in state atheletes EVERY year.

  5. tooyoungtoremember 06/19/2006 at 2:36 AM #

    It may sound trite, but let’s all not forget that these kids are students first, and athletes second. That is probably one reason why a recruit signs a commitment to a school rather than a coach or an offensive/defensive philosophy. Every university’s first and foremost responsibility to each student is to provide a rigorous academic environment where learning can take place. Will the new UNC system requirements hurt recruiting for a couple years? Probably. But I for one am proud of our universities for stepping up and raising their admissions standards. It will greatly improve the academic environments and the reputations of our state universities as a whole on a national level in terms of great places to get an education.

    Secondly, the new requirements aren’t THAT bad. I can see a kid not wanting to take two years of a foreign language, but I feel that this requirement is justified. After taking three years of Spanish in high school, I can honestly say that learning a foreign language made me a much better speaker and writer of my native language. And the math requirement is pretty easy to fulfill. Nowadays, most college bound kids have taken algebra I before they even become high school freshmen. So unless I understand the requirements wrong, most students would still only be required to take three math courses in high school.

    So, I look at the new requirements not as a hindrance to our athletic programs but as an opportunity for our degrees to mean more on a national and international level.

  6. tooyoungtoremember 06/19/2006 at 2:39 AM #

    wrong = incorrectly

    Maybe I should have taken a fourth year of Spanish!

  7. class of 74 06/19/2006 at 6:44 AM #

    Given the lousy public schools in this state, does it really matter how many math, english or foreign language courses a kid takes? We read everyday about the inconsistency in the education levels of different school systems. It seems to me the only fair way to measure is the SAT or ACT results period. You can argue about the test but at least it is standardized and administered equally throughout the land, which is alot more than I can say for the public schools in this country.

  8. StateFans 06/19/2006 at 9:21 AM #

    This link at Dave Glenn’s blog also discusses this topic in an interesting and educational manner.

  9. whitefang 06/19/2006 at 10:13 AM #

    First, I believe that this will hurt recruiting at State much more than at UNC. I have children both in the admissions process now or recently enrolled in college. I hate to admit it, but UNC is more desirable academically, certainly more desirable in basketball, and probably more in football at this point. With the academic qualifications raised to the point they have been, I see UNC getting the better athlete more times than State.
    Secondly to comment on, “If you can go to Clemson, SC, VT, WF, Duke, UVa, etc without doing extra work at a community college, then how many would go through that just to attend State or UNC?” This is true of some of these schools, but I believe this does not take into account that Duke and UVa are much harder overall to get into than State or UNC. On the surface at least, athletes recruited by these schools you would think would be academically eligible for State or UNC. HOWEVER, since I have a kid who will be applying to some of these schools this summer, I researched UVa high school course admission requirements. They say, “In general, you should take one of the toughest (if not the toughest) academic programs offered by your high school,” without spelling out the EXACT courses. Of course they would have to meet minimum NCAA requirements, but this gives them the ability to make decisions based on “individual circumstances.” This appears to give them much more flexibility than we now have at State.

  10. yannes 06/19/2006 at 11:56 AM #

    The foreign language requirement is nothing new and it has been there since I was in high school many years ago so that obviously hasn’t impacted recruiting that much. The big change is adding a fourth year of math. That’s not really that big of a change, though. Most high school students take one of each of the core classes (english, science, math, social studies/history) every year.

    Any student that graduates from high school in NC should have most of these requirements anyway.

    class of 74:
    The ACT and SAT are neither fair nor equal. They are standardized, but all that they can tell you is how well a student can take that particular test. They are biased tests that are losing weight with admissions officers all throughout the country.
    If you want standardization, then it would be better to standardize across specific courses – which they do – instead of trying to standardize across four years of many courses.

  11. TigerFan 06/19/2006 at 12:17 PM #

    The rationale is amusing… Do two years of a foreign language make you smarter? Or, much more likely, are the smarter kids more likely to take two years of a foreign language in preparation for meeting college admissions requirements?

    I’m not familiar with the higher education system in North Carolina; so this is an honest question. Will/can the universities in North Carolina make exceptions for athletes?

    I know many universities do. LSU, my alma mater, for example has increased admissions standards over the last several years; however, student athletes are still admitted according to NCAA guidelines.

    More surprising to some may be a couple of private institutions who lower their standards for athletes.

    USC, who likes to brag about their academics, had a number of players from their 2004 recruiting class not qualify – by NCAA standards. So, they obviously make exceptions as well.

    Even those pompous Irish fans at Notre Dame, who often like to blame higher admission standards for their recent sub par performance, makes allowances for student athletes.

    Per the ND website…

    “Notre Dame makes allowances for athletes in the admissions process, as it does for other groups, such as faculty and staff children. Among the 115 Division I-A schools, its average SAT (and ACT converted to SAT) rank for entering grants-in-aid football players, for example, was 42nd for the years 1994-97.�

    Are there 41 Division I universities that Notre Dame fans think are academically superior to them?

  12. VaWolf82 06/19/2006 at 12:56 PM #

    I’m not familiar with the higher education system in North Carolina; so this is an honest question. Will/can the universities in North Carolina make exceptions for athletes?

    I don’t think so. Any number of articles have claimed that athletes can not get exceptions. I couldn’t find anything on the UNC system website that talked about exceptions.

    I hadn’t originally planned on commenting on why the standards were being raised. I was just looking for a listing of the requirements so that I could compare them to the NCAA athetic standards and talk about what the differences were. However their justification was so silly, I just couldn’t restrain myself.

    It would be interesting to ask the FB coaches at ECU, NCSU, and UNC how many kids they would have liked to recruit, but didn’t because of the UNC system requirements.

  13. joe 06/19/2006 at 1:59 PM #

    You mean exceptions on top of all the other breaks athletes get right now? Such as having way lower SAT scores and GPAs than normal students? Pretty soon people will want to lower the requirements to anyone having a pulse being admitted if they can dunk.

  14. class of 74 06/19/2006 at 2:56 PM #

    Yannes: The ACT and SAT are better predictors of whether someone is prepared to enter college than the inconsistent school system grading policies in this state. Chris Washburn’s dismal SAT results being a prime example.

    If proficiency in two languages is seen as so vital then the illegal aliens should dominate the next few years at all of our instate institutions.

    I think we have problems with the crowd setting standards for the UNC system. They have good intentions I’m sure but are misguided and misinformed as to how the real world operates.

  15. yannes 06/19/2006 at 3:36 PM #

    class of 74:
    I bet that Washburn didn’t have a great high school GPA, either.

    SFN – welcome to 1985

    The SAT in particular is a notoriously poor predictor of how well a student is prepared for college. I know plenty of people that scored towards the minimum of the SAT that succeeded in college and I know plenty of people that scored high on the SAT that flunked out of college. Succeeding in college is about having your basic skills down (hence the list of required courses) and more importantly working hard.

    The SAT tries to standardize too much information in one test. Standardized course specific tests like the SAT II tests, the AP tests, and even the state mandated end-of-course tests are better indicators of academic success than the SAT. Still all of those tests only measure a student’s test taking ability in a specific subject or subjects. Even with the inconsistency between poor and wealthy school districts in NC, a quality GPA is going to factor in much more to your future acadmic success because it takes into account how hard a student is willing to work (to complete all of the assignments, study for tests, etc.). Most college admissions officers are going to tell you that things like GPA and class rank are much more important to getting in to college (and succeeding) than the SATs.

    The language requirement isn’t about proficiency in two languages, it is about taking two years of a foreign language (that is FAR from proficient) to help give you a better understanding of your own language, to pique a students interest in the world, and to possibly lead a student into proficiency. The UNC system has required two years of a foreign language for years and it hasn’t put a damper on recruiting as far as I can tell. Also, illegal aliens do not have social security numbers or residency so they cannot get into our in-state schools in the first place (nevermind that many illegals cannot speak two languages ie. they cannot speak english, have not completed high school, have no means to attend a college, etc.).

  16. class of 74 06/19/2006 at 4:32 PM #

    There are no predictors for how hard someone will work only how hard they may have worked. The SAT/ACT reflects what someone has done not necessarily what they will do.

    How many 5-star recruits turn out to be duds and how many walkons turnout to be good college athletes? A few in both instances but in both cases the ranking is generally a good predictor of their future.

    Finally, some in this state proposed instate tuition rates for ILLEGAL aliens so don’t be so sure who will be enrolling. The chuckleheads who want make our standards higher than all other NCAA institutions, the UNC BOG, is a PC laden crowd that lives seems to live in a vacuum.

  17. class of 74 06/19/2006 at 4:59 PM #

    ^ typo “is a PC laden crowd that lives or seems to live in a vacuum.”

  18. vtpackfan 06/19/2006 at 6:30 PM #

    The changes in both NCAA and UNC are mere updates. There is a big push nationwide to increase science and math scores. The philosophy’s on the other hand remain the same. The NCAA remains flexible while the UNC is less forgiving to those students not taking a comprehensive approach. You mentioned this above when you pointed out that taking Woodshop I over learning a foreign language would not/should not cause you any jeopardy latter on in you academic vocations. I don’t see this having much to do about foreign language classes and more to do with the ability to fill your high school transpripts up with intro clases. Whenever you see 4 years of any above areas thats code for take as many intro courses as possible and put off doing any comprehensive work in a particular field of study for as long as you can (like second semester frehman year at college).

  19. yannes 06/19/2006 at 7:28 PM #

    class of 74:
    I respectfully disagree about your assessment of the SAT. A student that works hard in high school (reflect by a high GPA) is more likely to work hard in college, whether they have a high SAT score or not (this is coming from a student that was an exception with a mediocre high school GPA, high SAT score, and near 4.0 college GPA). The SAT score simply tells you how good the student is at taking the SAT for whatever that is worth.

    Also, the bill that I believe you are referring to would give in-state tuition to the CHILDREN of illegal immigrants (the children being US citizens) as long as the children meet NC residency requirements. Proposing a bill that would allow illegal aliens to enroll would be political suicide, and many other rules in the system would have to change (residency requirements, SSN, high school requirements, etc.).

    To tie all of this back to the topic at hand, I don’t believe that adding an extra math credit is going to make all that much difference with recruiting. As I stated earlier, most students are already taking 4 years of math in high school. Again, the two years of foreign language has made no difference with recruiting (blue chip players like Julius Hodge, Ray Felton, and Rashad McCants have all been recruited since the two years of foreign language rule was instituted).

    One thing that I am very proud of about North Carolina is the quality of the public academic institutions in this state. I think that it would be another interesting topic to compare the UNC systems requirements to other quality college systems (NY, Cal, MI, FL?).

  20. redfred2 06/19/2006 at 10:35 PM #

    Does completing extra high school requirements just to be enrolled as a freshman in the NC system, carry automatic guarantees of future benefits immediately upon graduation, that are over and above the other state supported school systems?

    If the UNC sytem has taken it all upon itself to raise the national standard of education then I can’t say much about it. If not, why wouldn’t the typical seventeen year old, especially an out of state student, take the easier route through high school while having fun, when they can still enroll in major universities across the nation and earn a degree that will be competitive in most job markets with those same NC system grads? Add to that high school athletics and the burden of that extra cirriculum will multiply exponentailly when the majority of a teenager’s afternoons and evenings are already occupied with practices and ballgames.

    Hard one to figure either way.

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