J. Robert Spatig, University of South Florida

J. Robert Spatig, Director of Admissions at the University of South Florida, joins us to answer five questions this month -- and even treated us to a bonus sixth answer!

A public research university, USF is located in the Tampa Bay region of the Sunshine State, home to the NCAA Division I Bulls and one of the nation's top centers for the advancement in research of treatments for Alzheimer'sParkinson's andHuntington's diseases.  Join Spatig here to learn more about the students and the admission process of this incredibly diverse university that enrolls more than 47,000 students across four campuses.

1. What is the future direction of University of South Florida?

Although only fifty-six years old, the University of South Florida already has achieved the highest designations by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in both research activities and community engagement.  In fact, USF is second in the state of Florida in research production, outranking other well-known public and private institutions in the state.  And, USF is a leader in innovation as well, ranking 9th among world universities in the number of U.S. Patents granted in 2010, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Still, USF is not resting on these laurels and strives to achieve recognition nationally and internationally as a high-impact, global research university dedicated to student success.

2. What kind of student does well at USF? How would you describe the student body?

USF serves high-achieving, inquisitive students well, whether they enter the University as freshmen or transfers.  USF also attracts a highly diverse student body in terms of race, ethnicity,  socioeconomic status, and first-generation-to-college students.  Forty-one percent of the 3,500 freshmen who entered USF in 2011-12 self-identified as Hispanic, Black, Asian, American Indian, Pacific Islander or multi-racial; an additional 2% were international.  Ten percent came from outside of Florida.  Students who choose USF tend to value that diversity highly. They also value opportunities to be engaged in the discovery and creation of new knowledge with some of the top faculty in the world and involvement in campus organizations and the greater Tampa Bay community, as well as exploring the world beyond the U.S. through USF’s many global academic programs.  In fact, international education is so important here that USF President Judy Genshaft and her husband recently donated $1 million to endow Passport Scholarships to allow students with financial need to study abroad.

3. How can a student stand out when applying to University of South Florida? What would you most want an applicant to the school to know?

The best way that a student can stand out in the application process at USF is to have achieved academic success in the most challenging academic courses available to (and appropriate for) for the student.  Specifically, students who earn high grades in AP, IB and AICE courses tend to succeed at USF.  And, with the exception of the SAT Writing or the ACT English/Writing sections, standardized test scores provide little predictive value in determining student success at USF as long as the student’s scores are above the national means.  Thus, we are more likely to admit a student to USF who has earned an A-/B+ average in AP, IB or AICE courses and an SAT score of 1050 (1560) or ACT score of 23 than a straight-A student in all regular courses with an SAT score of 1210 (1800) or ACT score of 27 unless that latter student demonstrates a special talent in music, dance, art, theater or athletics.  But, with two other institutions within the USF System—USF St. Petersburg and USF Polytechnic in Lakeland—now admitting freshmen, there is likely a place for a solid B/B- student depending on his or her intended major.

4. How do you read applications?

This may shock some people, but we don’t “read” applications at USF.  With over 32,000 freshman and 15,000 transfer applications, we choose not to use diminishing public resources in that way.  Rather, we evaluate a student’s academic record over four years of high school and array the results on a three-dimensional matrix with the x-axis being a recalculated high school grade point average, the y-axis being the SAT or ACT score, and the z-axis being the academic success factors we have identified through regression studies to be predictive of student success at USF: a fourth science credit; foreign language study through the third level; a math course in pre-calculus or higher; three or more AP, IB or AICE courses; dual enrollment college credit with a postsecondary GPA of 3.0 or higher; and an SAT Writing score of at least 550 or an ACT English/Writing subscore of 24 or higher.  Based on where the applicant falls on that matrix, he or she is admitted, referred to another USF System institution, or denied.

Students on the margin, however, may be asked to submit a personal statement and teacher recommendation for review by the Admissions Committee.  But, we do not ask for students to submit anything that we’re not going to use in the admissions process.  And we make our admissions process very transparent by publishing this matrix for guidance and college counselors to use when advising students. When we implemented this process in 2007-08, USF’s freshman-to-sophomore retention rate jumped five percentage points to 86% and has continued to rise to 90% last year, indicating that our process works for our students.  It also allows USF to use the resources that would have been required to hire application readers to support others areas of student success, including need-based financial aid and academic scholarships

5. What is your favorite thing about University of South Florida?

What attracted me to the University of South Florida is what keeps me here today: USF is an extremely diverse community comprised of innovative and engaged scholars.  Those “scholars” include not only our research faculty, but our graduate and undergraduate students as well as many of us who support the mission and strategic goals of the University through our administrative roles.

As Director of Undergraduate Admissions and now as Assistant Vice President for Admissions, Recruitment and Enrollment Planning, I enjoy incredible opportunities and support when it comes to designing and implementing new initiatives to support student success, to attract and enroll high achieving students from all socioeconomic levels as freshmen, transfers or graduate students, and to spread the word about USF beyond the state’s borders to national and international markets.  Just today, I had the privilege of being a guest lecturer in an Honors College class studying issues of higher education to talk about how USF and other universities build their freshman class and shape their student bodies.  They were genuinely interested and asked such good questions that I left reaffirmed that what we do in Admissions and Student Success matters greatly.  I am challenged every single day at USF, but I’ve been here for seven years and still get to serve as a “change agent” at a young, ambitious university.  It’s a good fit for me!

6. And, finally, is there anything specific to USF and the current state of college admission that you would like to speak to?

Absolutely!  Students, you need to step up and represent yourself in this process.  Complete your own applications for admission and scholarships!  Schedule your own appointments for campus visits or interviews!  Send your own follow-up emails and make your own phone calls!  Don’t ask or let someone else do it for you, whether a parent, family member, school or independent counselor!  Yes, we know you’re busy with your advanced courses, your extracurricular activities, your jobs, your senior traditions, your friends.  But, you’re going to be even busier in college.

And, you’re going to have to stand on your own two feet.  Your professors will hate it if they receive calls or emails from your parents on your behalf unless it’s a true emergency.  Our job as admission professionals is to determine who is ready to succeed on our campuses.  We’re more than willing to discuss our academic or student life programs with your parents, or to help the whole family understand how you can afford to attend our institutions.  But, you are the applicant, and we want you to demonstrate to us that you are ready to take responsibility for your own future.

You can do it!  I have full confidence in you.  You’ve found this site after all!


I am currently a senior in Daytona Beach, Florida and an undergraduate applicant for your institute. I am determined to major in Athletic Training but eventually want to become a Physical Therapist or a PTA. Could you possibly provide me with information about your Physical Therapy programs. I have researched your sites to find information for PTA but have only found the Doctorate of Physical Therapy. Any information regarding this would greatly be appreciated.
Thank you,
Lyndsay Morgan

Why doesn't your office of Admissions care about Veteran applicants (and therefore the whole of USF administration, as no other office will deal with non-accepted individuals)?

Why don't you put any contact information for you directly, instead relying on your subordinates to pass along their supervisor's information so that you can report them, only to have those supervisors ignore your contact attempts entirely?

Add comment