Patrick Clement

Well-Known Member
Supporter
I wanted to share a short, somewhat fascinating, story with everyone about my application process with the University of Texas at Austin. Just to get this out of the way, I applied to many schools, had interviews and ultimately decided on Columbia. This isn't "sour grapes" by any means. If anything I thought it might be an interesting read and sheds some light on the process of grad film production at UT Austin. They are a fine school with a good reputation (which is why I applied, of course).

I submitted my application on deadline with a fairly strong portfolio. I've worked as a newspaper editor, worked in production in LA for five years and shot a pretty nice 20min short film in western kansas. I haven't read my letters of recommendation, but based on my interviews and acceptances, I am sure they were stellar. I can also assume my essay is pretty good (it got me interviewed with three of the top MFA programs).

I received an acceptance email early in the year. Their decisions come earlier than most programs. Having been nervous about the entire process (as we all are), it was nice to hear i would be going somewhere. We all know this feeling. Austin was a high middle choice for me, so I was relieved for sure.

I got a nice email from the film department and some administrative emails.
We celebrated with some sushi and a pretty stellar make out session.

A couple of days later I received an email from the Grad Admission Office. As a state school admission is a two-step process. The department makes a recommendation to the graduate admission office, but it is ultimately the grad office that either approves or denies applicants. I was asked to provide a copy of my Fall 2014 transcript (they were not included in my application). I can only assume to see what my current year grades were.

After two days I was emailed and told that I had been removed from the accepted list and put on the waitlist. I knew this was basically an "LA" no. That's when they don't want to say "yes" or "no" and say something like, "let's see what happens," or "we will think about it."

In that email the administrator at the grad school said they had found "disturbing" numbers in my transcript. I wasn't pleased with the way they handled that, which sort of sounded like I had the GPA of a rapist, or something.

I am and have always been a 3.0-ish student with a strong extracurricular portfolio. I am, at best, a 3.4 GPA type student, but I sacrifice 0.4 for projects outside of the classroom. Making films is a vocation and despite a good degree, it is experience that will get you work. I have always taken my classwork as "part of a complete breakfast," working on film and projects that create a great portfolio, but definitely effects my GPA. I am not sure what was "disturbing" about my GPA. Why such a strong word for something, so seemingly clinical? (BTW my cumulative GPA is 3.1)

From my experience with the process, it seems the actual film department is not free to select its own students. They make recommendations only and the administration in the grad school makes the final selections. I would wager it is not often the department makes a recommendation that is not accepted, but in my case it seems I was an exception.

As an incoming grad student, paying alot of money and spending alot of time honing my craft, I don't care about my classmates GPA. And neither does anyone else in the business (tell me if I am wrong here). I want to be around brilliant people, with passion, creativity and drive. I fail to see how an administrator, looking at my transcript can determine how ambitious or creative or brilliant I am.

UT Austin definitely has different priorities than I thought and it seems, at least from my experience, it places equal, if not MORE emphasis on academics than say NYU, AFI or COLUMBIA (all of which I interviewed at). This isn't earth-shattering, but It does offer a look at what type of students they want. It also offers a look at the way school administrators prioritize the film department. If the administration does not trust its own department to select the right students, how does that reflect the schools short-term and long-term investment in that department?

I want to finish by repeating this post is not about trashing Austin. I want to inform applicants about my experience, so it might inform them during their own selection processes. We should all be applying to schools we think are a good fit. If I had known Austin administration would override a departmental selection (maybe based on a couple of GPA points), I may not have applied in the first place.

Good luck and I wish you all the best in your application process.
Patrick
 

De4our

Member
I was also accepted by UT Austin, and was granted access by their graduate hierarchy the same day. I'm not sure why they required your transcripts at all, as I never sent them mine and have already registered for the Fall semester. Irregardless, I'm an unremarkable student grade-wise (3.27) and actually dropped out of my first undergrad program after having been put on academic probation...and I can completely say UT Austin is not hellbent on stellar 3.6 students. I have met many of last year's grad class, and they all appear about as unassuming in scholarly stature as any other filmmaker out there. I honestly think it was something else in the admissions process that gave them pause about your application, and then the graduate school itself looked at your credentials with more scrutiny. 3.0 is the minimum GPA, and unless your GRE score was exceptional, it likely didn't help your case.

However, to imply that 3.0 film school applicants are being turned away by UT and not by NYU and Columbia is farfetched at best, all of the schools you mentioned have quite strict academic acceptance rates with both undergrad and grad programs. I think if anything your "success story" at other schools' grad processes shows that your talent spoke volumes! Still, UT applicants for next year should keep in mind that most of the top film schools are also prestigious universities all around...and 3.0 with "extracurricular projects" is still a 3.0. I finished my bachelor's degree as an active duty Marine with a year tour in Afghanistan thrown in and barely any time for school; if you know the schools' minimum GPA requirements are 3.0 they expect you to have focused that much harder on your classes. And for a graduate committee to make a final decision on a student's academic eligibility after the film school gave the "artistic" blessing makes quite a bit of sense...it's a public university, not an art college.

UT was also the only school of the upper tier that *required* a GRE score, and I think that is meant to further establish their focus on academic validation in addition to artistic ability.

Just my two cents though--good luck at Columbia!

Hook 'em Horns! ;)
-Joshua
 

Patrick Clement

Well-Known Member
Supporter
You and I just interpret the situation differently, I suppose.
But, however my experience is interpreted, this situation says something about how the department operates within the university.

I am sure there were other factors I may not know about or will ever know about. As I wrote above, I'm not necessarily a "slam dunk" all-around great applicant. But that does not negate the fact that the department accepted a student, while the graduate office reversed/rejected that acceptance.

I think that is fascinating, especially considering the "closed" film graduate program applicant review process.
 

TheArsenal1886

Well-Known Member
I agree-- this is odd. I've followed this site pretty closely for the past three or four years, and I don't remember seeing this happen before. The department fowarding their decision to the graduate school is seen as a formality in most cases, and it seems that your GPA held par with where it's always been.

The way it works at most schools is (1) you’re accepted into the department program, and then (2) their decision is forwarded to the overall graduate school to determine “academic eligibility.” i.e. whether or not you meet the minimum requirements for enrollment. I’m sure there’s some legalspeak in there to prevent them from being bound to that exact definition, but it’s just odd.

Sure it's a public university, but it's an art school at a public university with its own very specific requirements and things they look for in potential students. If the art school says "yes" and you meet the minimum requirements for graduate admission, it's uncommon that the graduate school would veto that decision, especially considering it doesn't appear your grades are anything that would damage the "academic validity" of a school currently enrolling 50k+ students. On a traditional bell curve 3.17 should put you safely within the average and certainly nowhere near "disturbing."

I guess it's not something to dwell too much on since you're happy with Columbia, but I do think it's a worthy post. If anything, it just means wait for the official letter before you go out for sushi!
 

Indigo

Member
Well this explains why they are one of the only film schools to require the GRE
 

IndecisiveElle

Contributor
FilmSchool.org Writer
I'm going to resurrect this thread this year.

I have my final GRE scores from the test I took last week. I've been incredibly anxious about my GRE because while my GPA is solid, I feel confident in my resume and my writing, I've been out of school for quite a while. My math scores were not good. I'll give full disclosure and say my quantitative score was only 142. My transcripts show that in the past I was great at math (4.0 in calc, which was beyond what was required by my major, I happened to really like math in the past). But I'm terrified it's going to affect my admissions at UT-A.

That said, my verbal and written scores were on par with the averages of their published 2015 admitted class scores.

Am I being paranoid?
 

Patrick Clement

Well-Known Member
Supporter
I looked back and I couldn't find my previous GRE scores. Let me see if I can dig it out.
 

Patrick Clement

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Just note, I didn't study at all. :) And I don't actually know what they mean.
Verbal 157
Quantitative 149
Analytical Writing 4.0
 

IndecisiveElle

Contributor
FilmSchool.org Writer
Just note, I didn't study at all. :) And I don't actually know what they mean.
Verbal 157
Quantitative 149
Analytical Writing 4.0
Thanks for sharing your scores! I really appreciate it.
Hope you're doing well at Columbia, I saw your name once or twice when I was there for the TV workshop over the summer.
 

Patrick Clement

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Thanks for sharing your scores! I really appreciate it.
Hope you're doing well at Columbia, I saw your name once or twice when I was there for the TV workshop over the summer.

It's going just fine. Thanks for asking :)
 

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