This academic University of Southern Mississippi enrolled the most scholastically- achieving freshman class in its recorded history for a third consecutive year.
Freshmen came to USM with the highest recorded ACT scores and grade-point averages. Freshmen enrolled at Southern Miss have the best academic profile in the university’s history. This year’s new students have also impacted enrollment records at Southern Miss’ Gulf Park campus, according to Southern Miss Now.
Freshman Forensic science major Brittany McNeilly said these achievements reflect the entire freshman class at USM and that they are working hard to develop better study habits to help them excel in academics.
The class of 2020 is filled with intelligent students, including valedictorians, salutatorians, National Merit Scholars, Honors and AP students and those simply impassioned with the drive to succeed.
“This reflects me personally because I graduated my class with honors, and I feel the pressure to excel here as well,” McNeilly said. “[I] am constantly pushing myself to do as best as I can in my classes. People in high school are becoming better prepared in how to deal with stressful situations such as hard tests [or] exams, which is better preparing them for college.”
Incoming full-time and first- time students at USM have maintained an increasing grade- point average – from 3.27 last fall to 3.33 this fall, according to Southern Miss Now.
The freshman class’ average GPA this year is the highest ever recorded. In addition to record- breaking GPA levels, Southern Miss freshmen came in this year with a 22.94 average ACT score, an increase from 22.73 in fall 2015, according to Southern Miss Now.
“USM is benefitting [from] the students’ [GPAs and ACTs] because it brings the school’s standards up,” McNeilly said. “The school benefits off the success of the students because it draws in future students.”
Comparatively, the national ACT average dropped from 21 to 20.8 along with the state’s ACT average, which dropped from 19 to 18.4. The university’s Honors College students average an ACT score of 30.11 and average a GPA of 3.87.
The average GPA for new transfer students from community colleges is 3.12, which is an increase from 3.09 in 2015 and 3.04 in 2014.
Freshman broadcast journalism student Thomas Baski said a reason for freshmen’s incoming success is because students in high school are starting to take education more seriously and understand that they have to work for their future generations.
“Personally, where I come from, the ACT is required to take your junior year in high school, provided through the school, and that pushed a lot of students to actually try so they would not have to retake [it],” he said. “With more than enough information at the touch of our finger because of a phone, tablet or laptop, kids have access to so much more than previous generations.”
“I am delighted that high- achieving students see The University of Southern Mississippi as an institution that can support them on their journey toward earning their degrees,” said University President Rodney Bennett.
Freshman nursing major Mikyla Maricich said a good GPA in high school has a positive impact on being a college student.
“Keeping up [my] GPA [in high school] taught me study skills that have worked best for me along with time management,” Maricich said. “Even though college has still been an adjustment, I feel like already having a routine and tweaking it would’ve been easier than completely creating one.”
Southern Miss currently has 14,554 students enrolled, only three students more than last year, according to the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.
The university is aiming to keep students until they graduate and support them throughout the journey.
USM has housed the Office of New Student and Retention Programs since last September. This department intends to ease students’ transition to the university while enriching their academic experiences and supporting them.
Retention has also shown improvement at USM. The retention rate for full-time freshmen has increased by 1.9 percent since last year.
The university intends to continue this record-breaking trend in order to improve and progress its quality, according to the University Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Steven Moser.