(Slightly revised from prior year posts.)
On UF decision day February 26th, a very small number of applicants will get a peculiar-looking response from the university. They will not be granted admission as a fall or summer applicant, but they won’t be rejected either. Instead they will be offered a “bridge” program called Gator Engineering at Santa Fe. Only a few hundred kids will be given this option.
If you are selected for this, here’s what’s going on, based on my perspective as the parent of two students who accepted their invitations into this program in 2018 and 2020:
First, it’s complicated. Students in this program are kind of hybrids. They are part of UF but not official UF students immediately. But make no mistake: This is an invitation to be a part of Gator Nation.
UF has recognized that the workforce needs more engineers, but UF doesn’t have the capacity in its freshman/sophomore level pre-engineering classes to meet this demand. UF does have capacity in higher level engineering courses, though. Gator Engineering at Santa Fe is their solution, a partnership between UF and Santa Fe College in Gainesville.
Students admitted to this program take their critical tracking courses in engineering (calculus 1,2&3, chemistry, physics, etc.) at Santa Fe. They are students at Santa Fe to start but if they reach certain academic milestones, they can become UF students as early as their first spring semester. My daughter was in the program and was officially a Santa Fe student for the fall of 2018 but became an official UF student at the end of the fall term. She took classes at Santa Fe for three semesters and earned her AA from Santa Fe. Now she’s a full-time, upper-division UF student in the College of Engineering. My son is currently in the program. He made his numbers this past fall and is now a UF-ID carrying freshman.
How do you end up in this program? You don’t select GE@SF, it gets offered to you by UF. If you applied to UF and selected electrical eng., computer eng, computer science, environmental eng. or a few others and admissions liked you – but were on the bubble and didn’t make the cut for a traditional admit – then admissions forwarded your application among a few others to the college of engineering for consideration for GE@SF. The college of engineering then reviewed the applicants and narrowed it further, which led to the offers for GE@SF. The program is NOT offered to everyone who was denied a traditional admit as an engineering major. It’s a select group.
Reasons why you should accept:
• If you have your heart set on UF (and engineering), then take it. You will be part of the UF community from the beginning and have the chance to become a full UF student by the end of your first fall semester.
• If you feel strongly that you want to study engineering.
• After four years, you will have an AA from Santa Fe and a bachelor’s degree from the UF College of Engineering.
Reasons not to accept:
• If you don’t like the idea of taking classes at Santa Fe – for at least 3 semesters.
• If you can’t see yourself living off campus as a freshman and going to Santa Fe every day.
• If you don’t feel strongly about studying engineering. Freshman chemistry and calculus are hard. This is not an “easy” way into UF. You can’t be in this program for a semester and then change your major to business or agriculture or journalism, etc.
• If you have your heart set on joining other UF organizations right away: UF clubs, etc. (Not sure about joining fraternities/sororities but you can certainly go to the parties.) In the beginning you are a Santa Fe student which precludes you from some things. Once you have your UF-ID, you can join any club you want. My freshman son is in Gator Motorsports and loves it.
• If you aren’t ready for a challenging freshman year. To stay on track, you need to make good grades.
A few other points:
• Classes are smaller at Santa Fe, usually about 30 kids.
• Tuition is less at Santa Fe.
• Though kids in the program are not UF students to start, they can use many services on campus…
• Little things: at the beginning, you can’t buy student football tickets or gain free entry to things like the gym, other sporting events, pool, and museum. But you can use the library and wheedle your way into other things. This changes for the better once you get your UF admit.
• Give the program a hard look. I think some kids view this program as a pure rejection. It isn’t. Yes, you were not admitted to UF for Fall or Summer, but you have an option not offered to everyone. It may not be fully apparent right now, but UF wants you. (There are thousands of kids with flat-out rejections that would love to be you today.)
• Attend an information session. Hopefully they will be in person this year. Last year, they were cancelled due to Covid.
• Make the decision that is best for you.
There’s more information on the UF GE@SF page on the UF website, including details on the information sessions. There’s also a GE@SF Facebook page which is monitored by both the UF and Santa Fe advisors for the program.
The College of Design Construction and Planning has a similar partnership with Santa Fe. I don’t know much about the academic requirements.
An important note on housing. In the past, some kids in this program have been offered the option of living on UF campus and then commuting to Santa Fe. They did not offer this last year and it doesn’t appear that they will offer it this year. In my opinion, this really sucks. When my daughter was in the program, he lived on UF campus and absolutely loved it. If they do happen to offer it again, I would say jump at it.
It’s been three years since my daughter got her peculiar admissions answer. I know that we had way more questions than answers on decision day, so I hope this helps any of kids/parents who are hunting for info on the program.
Last year, we created a facebook group for the class of 2020 kids and their parents. We were able to share info and start scoping out roommates, housing etc. Parents: If your kid is already “all-in” on the program you might want to take the lead on creating such a group for the new group.