What Is the Texas Top 10% Rule in College Admissions?
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- High schoolers in the top 10% of their class may be automatically accepted to college in Texas.
- Some schools automatically accept the top 50%, and UT Austin only accepts the top 6%.
- The rule was created to improve diversity at flagship schools after a statewide affirmative action ban.
- Recent research suggests that the policy may not have made a big impact on college diversity.
In the middle of college application season? Imagine how you'd feel if you knew without a doubt that, when you finally sent off that application you've been obsessing over, you'd be rewarded with the “big envelope” — an acceptance letter. That's been the case for some lucky Texas high schoolers for the last couple of decades.
Since taking effect in 1998, the Texas “top 10%” rule has guaranteed admission to public state schools to graduating seniors at the top of their class. The rule — also known as House Bill 588 — was created to help ensure diversity at some of the best colleges in Texas, such as the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University. But a recent study has called into question how effective this rule has really been.
Read more about Texas automatic admission below, including which schools follow the Texas top 10% rule and whether you qualify.
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What Is the Texas Top 10% Rule?
Passed into law in 1997 and first starting in 1998, the Texas top 10% rule guarantees automatic admission to all public universities in the state for residents graduating from a recognized Texas high school in the top 10% of their class. Some Texas colleges and universities will even accept the top 25%, 30%, or even 50% of graduating seniors.
Since the rule was passed, only UT Austin has had to restrict the qualifying percentage down to 6% due to an overwhelming number of qualifying students accepting admission.
Why Was the Texas Top 10% Rule Created?
Texas automatic admission began after the 1996 court case Hopwood v. Texas banned public universities in Texas from considering race during the admissions process. The Texas top 10% rule was established after this ban as a way to increase diversity at some of the state's top schools, which saw an immediate dip in Black and Hispanic enrollment.
The law was supposed to ensure that lower-income students in less resource-advantaged districts would have the same opportunity to attend top-tier colleges as those from more privileged schools.
Has the Texas Top 10% Rule Worked?
A recent study by researchers at Texas A&M University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that the rule didn't seem to have made much of an impact when it came to increasing diversity at the state's flagship universities.
One issue may have been a lack of awareness about the policy at high schools that didn't regularly send students to the state's top colleges, suggests one of the study's authors. Another issue? High school students gaming the system by transferring from a high-achieving school to one where they would have less competition to make it to the top 10%.
Despite the rule's questionable impact, it may receive increased attention — and perhaps emulation — in the wake of the Supreme Court's recent affirmative action ban as states and schools look for alternative pathways to increased diversity beyond race-conscious admissions.
Do I Qualify for Texas Automatic Admission?
If you're a high school senior in Texas and are within the top 6-50% of your graduating class, you likely will qualify for automatic admission at public colleges in the state. You will also need to:
- Submit a complete application by the college or university's deadline.
- Enroll within two years of graduating high school.
- Fulfill the “new foundation plan” with a
distinguished level of achievement(a breakdown of what credits you need to complete in different subject areas during high school).
- Comply with the State of Texas Uniform Admission Policy, which lays out some additional guidelines for private and homeschooled students.
If you didn't quite make the cut for automatic admission at your school of choice, don't despair — many schools will still grant automatic admission for a larger top percentage if you also provide SAT or ACT scores above a certain threshold.
For example, the University of Houston will accept applicants in the top 10% without any entrance test scores, applicants in the 11-25% percentiles with SAT scores of 1080 or higher or ACT scores of 21+, and applicants in the 26-50% with SAT or ACT scores of at least 1170 or 24, respectively.
Full List of Schools That Follow the Texas Top 10% Rule
Frequently Asked Questions About Texas Automatic Admissions
What is the automatic admission rule in Texas?
The Texas automatic admission rule — also known as the “top 10%” rule — is a Texas state law that requires public colleges and universities to guarantee admission to the top 6-50% of graduating Texas high schoolers.
Which Texas colleges have automatic admission?
All publicly funded colleges and universities in Texas have automatic admission per state law, including popular schools such as UT Austin and Texas A&M. Schools vary in terms of who qualifies for automatic admission, ranging from the top 6-50% of graduating seniors.
Can you get into UT without being in the top 6%?
Three-quarters (75%) of UT Austin's incoming students are in the top 6% of their graduating high school class and are accepted through the state's automatic admission law.
That means 25% of the school's incoming class doesn't necessarily need to be in the top 6% of their high school class, but admission is very competitive.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the university's acceptance rate was 31% in 2022, but it is likely even lower once you account for the number of students accepted via automatic admission.
What percent of UT Austin is automatic admission?
UT Austin must accept three-quarters (75%) of its yearly incoming students through automatic admission. This requirement was set in a 2009 amendment to the state's top 10% law. As of 2023, UT Austin automatically admits Texas students in the top 6% of their class, but this threshold can change every year.
Is the Texas top 10% rule affirmative action?
The Texas top 10% rule is a race-neutral automatic admissions policy that was enacted in the wake of a statewide affirmative action ban as a way to potentially increase diversity at the state's public colleges. While the top 10% rule is not an example of a race-conscious affirmative action policy, it was passed with some of the same goals in mind.