Photo courtesy of Institute Communications

Top-of-their-class students recently got some good news: high school valedictorians and salutatorians from all over Georgia will now be guaranteed admission
to Tech.

The new Georgia Tech Scholars Program was unveiled by President G. P. “Bud” Peterson at a high school in Elijay, Georgia last week. The program will begin this year, and students graduating in the high school class of 2018 will be the first to benefit from it.

All public and private high schools with over 50 students will have an eligible student body. In order to receive automatic acceptance, an individual must rank first or second in their class, meet all course work requirements (such as taking pre-calculus or above) and complete the admission application.

The Georgia Tech Scholars Program arose from the observation that last year there were no applications from 45 of the 159 counties in Georgia.

“Sometimes the message they believe is that Atlanta is elitist to begin with, and Atlanta is sort of big and intimidating and there’s not a place for us there,” said Rick Clark, director of undergraduate admissions. “Georgia Tech can feel kind of intimidating.”

One of the aims of the program is to encourage all talented high school graduates to pursue a higher education, especially one at Tech, no matter their background.

The program is also part of a larger vision of the Institute to benefit the economic development of the state and country. Clark hopes that if students are from a more diverse variety of communities, they will be able to use everything that they learned at Tech and bring that knowledge back to solve problems and challenges in their communities.

“We have had students who come here, learn and think about the problems from their home, and then go back and solve those problems,” Clark said. “Tech has a really valuable education —
one that does have implications that could transcend through all of our state.”

Paired with the HOPE or Zell Miller Scholarship, the Institute hopes to present an appealing offer that is impossible to decline.

Some have expressed skepticism towards whether these students will be prepared for the rigor of Tech, since they will bypass the rigorous and holistic admissions process. Clark, however, is sure they will be able to cut it at Tech.

“All you can do is offer them admission, and it’s up to them to decide if they are up to the challenge,” Clark said. “So much of it comes down to character traits. Our expectation is that you push yourself as hard as you can with what you have access to.”

The program was inspired by the success of a smaller-scale endeavor that began in 2013. The Atlanta Public Schools Scholars Program offers automatic admission to top-of-their-school students in the Atlanta area.

Additionally, the program ensures that all in-state tuition and mandatory fees are covered for eight semesters of enrollment at Tech. Since this initiative’s beginning, the number of applications from the Atlanta Public Schools district has doubled.

The timing of the announcement is key, as many seniors are beginning to complete their applications. Tech is also partnering with the University of Georgia and Georgia State University for the annual Peach State Tour. They will be visiting 23 high schools throughout the state in order to offer free information sessions for students and parents about
Georgia colleges.