The University of Central Florida is starting its fall semester with one of the brightest freshman classes in school history and by launching several new programs and learning communities.

The incoming freshman class includes a UCF-record 74 National Merit Scholars. The 3,700 freshmen that will call UCF home this semester boast an average high school GPA of 3.85 and an average SAT score of about 1245. Last year 45 National Merit Scholars enrolled at UCF. The average GPA was 3.8 and the average SAT score was 1227.

The university continues to grow, fulfilling a longstanding commitment to provide high-quality students access to higher education. Enrollment is expected to exceed 58,000 students this fall. Graduate enrollment is expected to surpass 8,300.

Like the incoming freshmen, transfer students are making a name for UCF. The university’s many initiatives to help community and state college students make a smooth transition to UCF won rave reviews from the nonprofit College Board in a report released this summer. More than half of UCF’s bachelor’s degrees have been awarded to transfer students for the past two years.

And these students do well, earning coveted awards at UCF. Last year, for example, seven out of 10 students who received the university’s top academic honors at Founders’ Day ceremonies were transfer students.

The record group of National Merit Scholars includes Landon Meahl, of Ocala, who turned down Georgia Tech to attend UCF.

“UCF has a great science program, and I want to get involved in research early,” Meahl said. “I want to major in physics and math, so this was a great choice for me. And the Honors College is unique.”

Morgan McSweeney, who starts his first semester at UCF next week, said he’s thrilled to be at such a vibrant college. The Sarasota native applied to and was accepted at seven colleges and chose UCF because of its research focus.

“When looking for colleges, I knew that I wanted to do research as an undergraduate student. UCF offers the best opportunities for research and internships out of all of the colleges I looked at,” said McSweeney, who is majoring in Biotechnology with a minor in Psychology.


While no new residence halls are opening this year, many of the freshmen housed on campus will be living in new or expanded learning communities.

For example, 28 students who are interested in scientific research signed up for the Learning Environment and Academic Research Network (L.E.A.R.N.).  They will live on a floor of a building in the Hercules community on campus. The National Science Foundation funded LEARN to increase retention in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines for first-generation and minority students.

LEARN students will take three courses together – a freshman seminar, English and introduction to research. Participants also will work with graduate students and faculty members who will serve as their mentors as part of research apprenticeships.

On another part of campus, out-of-state students will be moving into Citrus Hall in the Libra community as part of the expanded Out of State Student Mentoring program. The program helps out-of-state students transition to UCF and Florida.

New Programs

UCF also is launching two new degree programs this semester.

The Master of Research Administration program is the first of its kind in Florida and among the first of its kind in the nation. It provides in-depth knowledge of identifying funding opportunities, preparing grant proposals, negotiating and handling contracts, and managing intellectual property and technology transfer, all essential to helping get research out of the laboratory and into the marketplace. The two-year, 36-credit-hour program is being offered online beginning this fall.

For the first time, UCF is also offering a bachelor’s degree in Latin American Studies. It provides students with the necessary tools and relevant knowledge to understand, study and work with Hispanic populations. Research opportunities are part of the program, in fields such as anthropology, art, history and international relations.

Students will gain an understanding of the cultural, social, economic and political dimensions of the Americas and develop a basic proficiency in Spanish. Graduates will be well-prepared for careers in the Foreign Service, the military, government and international business.

Getting Greener

UCF is getting greener every day. In a national competition aimed at having buildings reduce their energy use, UCF earned high marks for reducing energy consumption by 31 percent in Parking Garage C. The Environmental Protection Agency sponsors the contest every year.

Construction is continuing on UCF’s new $10.2 million natural gas plant. The new plant will run on a 30-foot-long Mitsubishi engine powered by natural gas, and UCF will save about $2.5 million a year in fuel costs. In addition, the energy produced by the natural gas will reduce UCF’s environmental impact by 30 percent.

Other Highlights

The Burnett Honors College’s incoming freshman class is an impressive group of 525 students. The class’ average SAT score is projected to be 1389, compared to 1376 last year. And its weighted GPA is projected to be 4.2, up from 4.1 last year.

The College of Education is getting ready for its public unveiling of the Morgridge International Reading Center, which will spotlight the world’s best practices in reading instruction and help educators adopt them in the classroom.

This will be the first full semester for WUCF TV, the new Central Florida home for PBS. A partnership between UCF and Brevard Community College rescued beloved shows such as Antiques Roadshow, NOVA, and Arthur, and is giving the university unprecedented opportunities to showcase UCF throughout the region. Plans for the fall include expanding programming to include high-quality local shows.