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UW admissions reaches record-high difficulty

"I wish I was smart," my friend sighed as she hunched over a 6-inch-thick, ancient-Greek textbook. The irony was that we had just begun our third quarter of a language series so difficult that more than half the students dropped out by the end of the first quarter.

Although I realized that simply being a student at the UW proved our general intelligence, I couldn't help but laugh, as I still identified with her woes. Yet, I was compelled to remind her that we will be among a minority in the nation who will receive bachelor's degrees, and we'll be receiving them from an internationally renowned university with award-winning research and faculty.

So it didn't surprise me when a Seattle Times article pointed out that the UW's incoming freshman class is expected to have record-high GPA and SAT scores. The article reported that the average SAT will be about 1,200, the average GPA above 3.7 and only 63 percent of applicants will be offered positions.

Many hiss and whine about the low level of acceptance, but compared to universities the UW is on par with, it's the highest percentage of acceptance I can find. UC Berkeley has a 24 percent acceptance rate, Columbia only 10 percent and Harvard only 9 percent. It may seem far-fetched to compare the UW's programs to these universities, but U.S. Weekly and World Report consistently does.

One reason why our acceptance rate is so high is because we accept so many students. Most private schools have anywhere between 4,000 to 7,000 undergraduate students. UC Berkeley has almost 24,000, but by next year, UW should have more than 30,000 undergraduates. That's 30,000 students in some of the best programs the nation has to offer.

But don't let this get to your head. As a transfer student from a community college, I reasoned that I could finally expect students to be astute and even intellectual at this level, especially when they didn't look it. To prove my theory, I walked slowly by a group of blonde, Barbie-like, sorority girls who were walking toward Denny. I suspected they'd be discussing globalization or Darfur, when one girl broke the general hum with a tone of realization that could have triggered Einstein's curiosity. "I mean, I think brunettes can be just as pretty, too." All of the girls nodded their gemstone sunglasses up and down, humming in a chatter of agreement — so much for expectations.

According to the Web site of the Foundation for International Understanding Through Students (FIUTS), there are more than 2,000 foreign students enrolled at the UW. When I first read this number, I was almost angry knowing that some of them are here on short exchange programs, and not here for a legitimate degree, which many foreign students at the UW do indeed come to earn.

I know plenty of local bright students with great GPAs and decent SATs weren't accepted into the UW. Although I appreciate the value of diversity as much as the next guy, I couldn't help but stick up for the 3.5-GPA, 1100-SAT students from Roosevelt High School over one-year exchange students, who are far less likely to graduate from the UW or stay around long enough to contribute to our city, state or even nation.

However, there must be an easier way to make the UW more accessible to Washington residents than kicking out all of the foreign students. In his recent edition of "Office Hours," UW President Mark Emmert was excited to announce that the legislature has granted enough money to add an additional 1,700 students, including 500 spots for Washington's much-needed science and engineering.

In addition to this, the University was given funding to pursue building a fourth campus north of Seattle in Snohomish, Island or Skagit county. A new campus will directly serve Washington residents by offering them quality education but without having to meet high admission standards.

The UW is one of the best universities the country has to offer, and the increased competition is a reflection of our professors' and students' hard work. Our ability to support so many foreign students is nice, but we should be also considering our local students when we increase our spots for foreigners. For as many mistakes as our legislature regularly makes, their decision to support UW deserves some level of praise.

Reach columnist Celeste Flint at opinion@thedaily.washington.edu.

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