With college applications starting to trickle in, UF's Innovation Academy has received its first batch of applicants for the Spring 2013 semester.
Innovation Academy is an enrollment model in which students attend classes only during the Spring and Summer semesters.
During the fall, they may study abroad, participate in research or take online classes, but they may not physically attend classes on campus.
Zina Evans, vice president of enrollment management, said the word about the program has been out since last spring, but admissions counselors hit road about two weeks ago to start talking with students, parents and guidance counselors around the state.
Evans said admissions counselors aren't recruiting for Innovation Academy; rather, they're running an information campaign with students and encouraging them to think about whether the program is right for them or not. Innovation Academy is featured on the admissions office website, too.
The program is being marketed as an opportunity for students to move through UF in a smaller, cohesive group while still getting the full Gator experience. Counselors are also mentioning that the program allows the university to admit more qualified students than before because they would take classes during the two terms that aren't already at capacity, Evans said.
Although academic instruction will be the same as the traditional Fall/Spring enrollment model, students in any of the 37 majors offered by Innovation Academy will have more opportunities to participate in multidisciplinary activities. Evans said the program places an emphasis on entrepreneurship and creativity within the courses of study, and students learn about their majors in a much larger context.
Applications for admission to UF opened Aug. 1. As of Monday, Evans said about 2,000 students had applied overall and 8 percent had applied for Innovation Academy. However, she said, the application deadline is Nov. 1, so it's too early to tell how much interest there is in the program.
Last year, more than 29,000 students applied to UF as freshmen. Evans said she expects about the same this year.
Evans said students' main concerns about Innovation Academy had to do with financial aid, whether their majors were offered and what types of campus activities they'll be allowed to participate in during the fall.
"We had many of the same questions as with other students coming for the first time," she said.
State legislature has adjusted the rules so that Innovation Academy students will receive Bright Futures during the Summer semester, and students will be able to join campus clubs and organizations during Fall semester.
"There are very few limitations for students who choose to participate in the program," Evans said. José Cervantes, a 17-year-old senior at South Dade Senior High in Homestead, Fla., is about one-third of the way through his application to UF, where he wants to study contemporary history.
He said he would consider applying to Innovation Academy because of smaller class sizes. As long as his major is available, he doesn't see a problem with skipping Fall semesters.
"It's no different than going during the fall, so I wouldn't mind, I guess," he said.