Decision to apply to UCF or USF out of state

Trying to help my daughter decide if she’d rather apply to UCF or USF from out of state. 43 DE credits. Score not as high as she would like but still testing. Lots of leadership and some service. Major would be something in Communications / Mass Comm / Digital Media / Marketing / PR. Any advice?

Over the years, with my 2 kids, I have been on the campuses of most universities in Florida. We would stop and check out campuses as we visited different spots across the state. We all liked UCF more than USF, by a lot. We all liked FAU in Boca more than USF. FIU in Miami and USF were about the same to us. We also liked UF and FSU very much.

Once you get past UF and FSU, I think degrees from the other schools I have mentioned are viewed on about the same level, regardless of US News rank.


Apply to both and see what kind of cost you end up with. Both fine schools and both fast rising.


My D did not get to visit any of the FL campuses, but applied to UCF and FSU. FSU offered better merit, but she ultimately chose UCF-Interest in engineering. Orlando was more appealing to her for weather/engineering program/amazing dorm rooms that allow for privacy. For parents we liked the Orlando suburban area and direct flights. D21 also liked that UCF didn’t seem to “overdo it” with the school spirit. @JimDadinmia and @jeneric on this site have a lot of knowledge about UCF and have been a great resource for me over the past year+. Last summer UCF had online STEM programs a couple times a week for Hs students that my D viewed and helped her feel a connection to the university. UCF was top on her list going into senior year with the covid 19 situation not allowing us to visit any of her top choices.


First of all, welcome to CC!

For some reason, your post did not appear on the UCF page, but I got it in my inbox because 1Lotus mentioned me. You may want to cut and paste to repost your questions only on the UCF page. You’ll get more UCF responses that way.

For background:

  • I have a daughter who just finished her freshman year at UCF…and LOVES it! She is in biomedical research.

  • I also have older daughters who graduated from FSU (IT) and FIU (Education)

  • two granddaughters who graduated from FSU (one a dual major in business and entrepreneurship, the other in marketing)…and love FSU

  • plus one grandson also just finished his freshman year at UCF (although he was DE and graduated HS with his AA) and another granddaughter at FIU. Both love their schools. He has not declared a major, but is leaning toward archeology; his sister is in nursing.

  • And – not to leave USF out, my UCF daughter’s BFF just finished her freshman year at USF. Not sure what her major is. I haven’t talked to her for a couple of months, but from what the parents tell me, she likes it.

I agree with above posters on several things. One is that UF and FSU (in that order) are the top-tier schools academically.

I think most would rate UCF, USF, and FIU as the second-tier, although personally I don’t think UCF and FIU are very far below UF/FSU. UCF and FIU both have improved amazingly in recent years. All five of those schools now have medical colleges, if that’s any indication.

To me UCF has a couple of advantages. One is size, with something like 71,000 students. It is the largest public university in the US, and therefore has a lot of resources that smaller schools may not have. UCF is VERY oriented toward student academic success and has very good resources in that area. The main campus is both walkable and has an amazing shuttle bus system.

I also consider the dorms at UCF a huge plus, and they have a great system for identifying, getting to know, and choosing roommates.

Another good thing about UCF is the location. The campus is only about an hour from the beach, has great recreation/fitness facilities, and is located in Orlando – so Disney World, Universal, Sea World and lots of other attractions are nearby. Students get discounted Disney and Universal tickets, and this spring they had a “Universal Knights” day when admission to both Universal and Islands of Adventure was free to UCF students.

By contrast, UF is in Gainesville, a rural town that is almost exclusively a college town – so not much happening other than UF. FSU is in Tallahassee, which is also rural but it’s our state capitol so it’s dominated by state government. USF is in Tampa, which is Florida’s 3rd-4th biggest city – also an hour from the beach, lots to do in town, less than 2 hours from Disney.


D is oos and had about 35 DE credits/8 or 9 AP classes. Many of the DE classes did not transfer to UCF even though they were earned at our state flagship. She did not know where she would attend while taking DE her senior year, did not coordinate with UCF about which classes could earn credit at UCF. In retrospect it is a bummer, but she applied to 9 or 10 colleges and could not try to coordinate with all of them.

Great info @JimDadinmia

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Also, to echo something 1Lotus said above – airline flight availability matters significantly to OOS families.

Orlando (MCO) is (barely) the busiest airport in Florida, virtually tied with Miami (MIA). Tampa (TPA) is 4th. All 3 of those cities have lots of flight options, both in terms of airlines and scheduling.

Neither Tallahassee nor Gainesville have big airports, and Gainesville’s is downright small. So neither is going to have a lot of direct flights or convenient scheduling.


(curious thoughts about UNF, Jacksonville U, Stetson, U of Tampa?)


I don’t know much about any of those, except that UNF is a state school located in Jacksonville and the other 3 are private.

Stetson has been around for many generations and the main campus is in Deland, Florida which is between Orlando and Daytona Beach.

Others have given great advice! I would have her apply to both and visit. The schools are pretty similar. I like UCF’s layout more. The buildings literally have the names of what they are in large letters ie: Psychology building. Both campuses are big. Have her look at the requirements for those majors and see if there is any difference between the types of classes she would have to take. Unfortunately, DE classes taken outside of Florida might not all transfer.

I can not stress enough that if she needs to test, she test soon and apply as soon as possible. At UCF I always recommend that kids apply directly to UCF through their application and not the Common App. Always do the essay and try to have everything in by September 1st. So many kids wait until mid October and by that time the backlog has already begun. If her test scores are below 1200/24 you might want to consider applying for Summer term- starts late June and she could take a class online from home if she didn’t want to go to FL till the Fall semester.

I personally love Eckerd College, which is close to USF. It’s private and pricey, but it’s a great location with no TAs and no online classes- at least not during Covid!

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Tampa is a relatively inexpensive school with great merit, tons of majors and not great outcomes. Jacksonville is another east to get into school, not for strong kids. Stetson likely a better school but not a national name.

As for UF, FSU, USF, UCF, FAU, FIU etc yeah Florida is now ranked near the high part of public schools. USF is the fastest mover rank wise.

Guess what…if you get a job in Chicago, Denver, DC, etc no one will care of you go to UF, FAU, Nebraska or anywhere else. We are not talking about Harvard.

Find the right fit financially and comfort wise.


Tampa had a problem this year with telling students after they had committed that there was no housing for them. People were really angry about that, having turned down other schools. It’s been in the news and on CC. I crossed it off my list of possible schools for my D.


You bring up a GREAT point – outcomes!

Different ratings use different criteria, and it’s important to understand what standards are being used to rate schools – and also how important those standards are to YOU. What one rating system uses may not be very important to YOU.

Outcomes was one of the most important considerations for us when our D applied in 2020. We looked at the stats for Freshman retention (in some schools, not many students return after the first year) and graduation in four years.

Florida, throughout our higher education system, places emphasis on four-year graduation, so students are pushed to complete 30 hours per year rather than drifting through a casual 6-year bachelors stroll taking minimum credit hours every semester. Many, many Florida system students graduate in less than 4 years – sometimes because of DE in HS, other times because of AP credits, and also because they take the expected courseloads.

IMHO, OUTCOMES are not focused on nearly enough by prospective students.

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Well, Tampa is a very small school, so that’s to be expected.

Housing is an important factor, and very few schools have enough housing for all students.

Specific to UCF, parents would do well to visit the housing webpage at and check it out thoroughly. UCF gives some preference to entering freshmen, OOS students, and Honors program students. UCF has more than 20,000 available beds in a wide range of accommodations (but 71,000+ students) so you really need to go to school on housing.

I’ve seen a number of students put off housing applications, and regret the result. At UCF, it’s important to apply for housing EARLY because that will determine whether you get assigned where you want, in the type of accommodations you want.

On this website’s UCF page, there are a lot of threads about housing, and prospective students should go there – not just limit themselves to this very general set of threads.

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Tampa told hundreds of newly-accepted students that enrollment in the freshman class was too high and campus housing was overbooked. The university pointed students to check out off-campus housing options, but most were already booked. They are offering $3500 per year if students defer a year. While many schools cannot offer housing to upper classmen, a college that can’t offer housing to freshmen and tells parents this after they have turned down other schools is not a school I want to send my kid to.


Perhaps they’ve changed their verbiage due to recent issues (Tampa). But their website says this:

Students are not required to reside in on-campus residence halls and the Office of Residence Life cannot guarantee on-campus housing for all students. However, those who complete their housing application will be provided a housing assignment on a space-available basis.

Has anyone been accepted to UCF for Fall 2022? When did you apply? When were you accepted?

My son was accepted for Fall today (10/20). His file was completed on 10/8 .

My daughter received her UCF acceptance 10/20. Her application was complete 9/30.

My daughter’s file was complete on 9/26 & accepted today also! She’s so excited