By Adam Freeman, University Communications and Marketing
From the sights and sounds of the Herd of Thunder band practicing at Fowler Fields to student centers and restaurants bustling with activity, new students at the University of South Florida are getting their first experiences with campus life in full swing as fall classes begin this week. USF is welcoming a highly accomplished group of 6,897 new undergraduate students across its three campuses this fall.
Along with serving thousands of students from around Tampa Bay, the new class of students represents 46 states and 139 countries, an indicator that USF brings the top talent from across Florida, the nation and the world to the region.
Based on preliminary data, the fall class of first-time-in-college students boasts an average high school GPA of 4.25, an average SAT score of 1306 and an average ACT score of 28. This year’s class also includes 68 National Merit Scholars.
Reflecting USF’s impact on social mobility, approximately one in three new students are eligible for Pell Grants, which is a federal financial aid program for students from lower-income families.
Demand to attend USF remains strong, as the university received more than 65,000 applications from prospective students, a 30% increase compared to only two years ago.
“Our newest class of students joins the University of South Florida at a particularly exciting time, as it is our first academic year as a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities,” USF President Rhea Law said. “Students and families clearly recognize the tremendous value that comes from earning a degree at USF, and we look forward to preparing our new students with the skills they need for successful careers in high-demand fields.”
First-year student Justin Stephens from Sanford, Florida, plans to major in communications and minor in public relations. Stephens is a Pell Grant recipient and participant in the Student Support Services Program, a federally funded program that provides comprehensive support for students who are either the first in their immediate family to attend college or come from modest socioeconomic backgrounds.
“I chose USF because of the SSS Program. Being accepted gave me benefits none of the other colleges I got accepted into could compare,” he said. “Also, I have had two of my cousins go here, and seeing them experience USF has always made me want to go.”
USF’s Judy Genshaft Honors College, which recently opened a new state-of-the-art, 85,000-square-foot facility on the Tampa campus, welcomes 640 new students with an average high school GPA of 4.36, an average SAT score of 1387 and an average ACT score of 31.
Among them is Roy Chen from Lake Mary, Florida, who joins an accelerated pathway program into the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. He’ll spend the first three years studying in the Judy Genshaft Honors College while working toward his bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences and the final four years in medical school where he later hopes to become a neurologist.
“I chose USF because it truly strives to offer everyone an equal chance at pursuing higher education, which is achieved through generous financial aid and branching out internationally,” Chen said.
Caylee Demil-Smith, a first-year student from Boynton Beach, Florida, said she looked at several private schools in the Tampa Bay area before deciding to attend USF on the St. Petersburg campus. She said she’s looking forward to meeting other students who share her interest in the environment and sustainability. A former competitive swimmer, she’s also excited that USF St. Petersburg offers water sports such as kayaking and paddleboarding.
“I love the location,” said Demil-Smith, who plans to study environmental science. “I feel like USF St. Petersburg has that small, private school feeling at a way better price.”
For aspiring veterinarian Spence Gerber of Venice, Florida, a freshman on the Sarasota-Manatee campus, USF is a family tradition. His mother and two older brothers are alums, and a third brother is starting his senior year.
“I decided to follow in their footsteps, considering the great experiences they all expressed they had during their time at USF,” said Gerber, who is majoring in biology as a student in the Judy Genshaft Honors College. “The opportunities the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus provides are exactly what I was looking for.”
USF is also welcoming nearly 3,000 new graduate students. The enrollment data included is as of the first day of classes on Aug. 21.
For more information on how to apply to USF, visit usf.edu/admissions.
Tina Meketa, Carrie O’Brion and Marc Masferrer, University Communications and Marketing, contributed to this article.