George Mason University teams up with a Va. high school on a direct admissions program

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Osbourn High School seniors who maintain a 3.25 grade point average will now be eligible for direct admission to George Mason University, according to Osbourn Principal Mike Pflugrath.

Direct-admissions programs such as the offering at Osbourn have become increasingly popular in the commonwealth, with Virginia Commonwealth University also launching a similar program.

Through the program, if a student meets the GPA requirement, they automatically receive an acceptance letter directly from the university without having to pay application fees, submit standardized test scores or recommendation letters.

The 144 Osbourn seniors who qualified for the direct admission program received offer letters from GMU the first week of October. It is unclear how many students will take GMU up on the opportunity and attend the university.

“In the end, we’re trying to make sure that we don’t lose the students who could be successful here because of procedural barriers to gaining access to higher education,” said David Burge, George Mason University’s vice president for enrollment management.

Pflugrath said the program also helps take some of the anxiety out of applying to college.

“I think that’s huge for our students to know that if they achieve that GPA, that they can rest assured that they’re welcome at George Mason,” Pflugrath said.

Osbourn is not the only school in the region that George Mason is working with; the direct admissions program includes Manassas Park High School, Alexandria City High School and five Fairfax County schools.

Burge said right now the model is considered a pilot program, with agreements set with each participating high school for three years.

“The way that we will evaluate success is predominantly about what happens to the students when they come to Mason and how successful they are,” Burge said.

In total, GMU has sent out 1,100 direct admission offers, though they anticipate that number being close to 1,500 in the end, Burge said. As of Oct. 24, 12% of those students had claimed their direct admissions offer, although students have until May to do so.

Pflugrath said his primary aim since becoming principal in 2019 has been reducing barriers for students both in and out of school. This program is the next step in that, he said.

Osbourn, like many schools in the region post-pandemic, has struggled with chronic absenteeism in its student body. Pflugrath said he sees the direct admissions program as an incentive for students to come to school because of the opportunity it presents those students who attend school and do well academically.

“We talk a lot here about giving kids multiple opportunities to succeed and reach their potential. This is another way of giving multiple opportunities, you’re giving opportunities post-secondary as well,” Pflugrath said.

George Mason’s Dean of Admissions Alan Byrd is visiting Osbourn on Oct. 27 to celebrate the students admitted to the university through this program.

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