Acting to stem a forecasted decline in the perceived quality of math and science education across the nation, a number of states decided to establish residential, application-based public “academies” in math and science in the mid-1980s. The 70th Texas Legislature established the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science (TAMS) in 1987 at the campus of the University of North Texas (UNT). It welcomed its first students in 1988.
TAMS is a two-year, residential program open to rising juniors. Unlike many students at peer academies, TAMS students (TAMsters) are concurrently enrolled in high school and in college. They take all courses side by side with UNT undergraduate students and have the opportunity to earn more than 60 transferable college credits by the time they graduate.
As a public school operating on the campus of a public university, TAMS has no religious affiliation, but it does provide accommodations for students’ religious observances. Per Texas state law, students may be excused from classes to observe religious holidays; however, the student is still required to satisfactorily make up any missed assignments and/or exams in a timely manner. TAMS students may also join and participate in the activities of more than 30 spiritual and religious organizations active on the campus of UNT.
TAMS operates entirely within the campus and facilities of the University of North Texas. Located approximately 40 miles north of downtown Dallas in the town of Denton, UNT’s more than 35,000 undergraduate and graduate students occupy approximately 875 acres. With an annual budget exceeding $850 million, the university possesses all of the facilities expected of such a large institution. In particular, TAMS students enjoy access to the university’s four main libraries, the 138,000-square-foot Pohl Recreation Center (complete with indoor lazy river and climbing wall), and expansive outdoors space for intramural sports and recreation.
TAMS is a residential program only; as such, all students reside in UNT’s McConnell Hall. Two students share a single dorm room; overnight guests are permitted by written permission only. The dormitory is comprised of three floors, segregated by gender. It includes a kitchenette, meeting rooms, and common rooms. Students dine at any UNT dining hall of their choice.
Curfew Sunday through Thursday is 11pm; Friday and Saturday curfew is at 1am. Certain areas of campus, Denton, and Dallas which are known for partying are off-limits to students at any time of day.
Out of more than 500 applicants state-wide, approximately 200 rising juniors are accepted to TAMS each year. Unlike HISD magnet programs, the TAMS admissions process considers each student holistically, without the use of computer programs or mathematical formulae.
Academically, the admissions department evaluates students based on SAT scores, grades, and teacher references:
- Students are required to have completed geometry, algebra I, and algebra II prior to admission.
- The average SAT score at admission into TAMS averages between 650 and 700 for math and 590 and 620 for verbal.
- Students are also evaluated on the basis of maturity, motivation, behavioral record, and a career interest in science, technology, and/or mathematics.
In general, TAMS looks for students who are capable of succeeding in college coursework and intend to utilize that advanced coursework at a professional level. Five times a year, the school offers “Preview Day,” which is an open house for prospective families to come to campus and get to know the school better.
In the manner of a university, TAMS offers early and regular decision application tracks. Early decision applicants receive notification of admission earlier and have a marginally better chance of admission, as they have more time and opportunities to demonstrate their interest and strength of candidacy as compared to regular admission prospects.
Applicants are required to attend an on-campus interview prior to admission. Failure to make the interview will result in disqualification from the application process. TAMS is actively recruiting female applicants, as the student body is generally about 55% male.
Tuition, course fees, and books are technically free of charge courtesy of the Texas state Foundation School Fund. However, parents must still pay a $1300 “Parent Program” charge and approximately $7,000 a year for room and board. Financial aid is available.
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TAMS offers only one academic track—undergraduate college courses at UNT. Students may only enroll in UNT college courses; no “high school” level courses are offered. Students take 12 core hours each semester and must complete the following courses to earn a TAMS Standard Diploma: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, two semesters of math at the pre-calculus level or higher, English Literature, US History, and American Government. They must also attend a bi-weekly seminar that covers a varying array of issues such as relevant research and technology topics.
Students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher to remain in the program; the ability to take electives is also determined by GPA. Students are not allowed any electives their first semester. After that, they may take one elective if their GPA falls between 3.1 and 3.5 or two electives if their GPA falls between 3.5 and 4.0. Students may earn an Honors Diploma by maintaining a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5, earning a B or higher in every course, and completing at least 80 community service hours.
Students successfully graduating from TAMS are automatically admitted to the University of North Texas and receive full credit for complete coursework, upwards of 60 hours. The amount of credit that transfers to other colleges depends on the specific policies of those institutions.
Students with disabilities have full access to UNT’s Office of Disability Accommodations and receive all rights and privileges afforded to them by that office as is required by Section 504 of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and the 1973 Rehabilitation Act.
Foreign language study is not a core requirement at TAMS; as such, students may only enroll in these courses as electives. Should they qualify to take an elective, they have full access to the university’s extensive foreign language offerings. The UNT Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures offers coursework in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Russian, and Spanish.
The study of arts is not a core requirement at TAMS; as such, students may only enroll in these courses as an elective. Should they qualify to take an elective, they have full access to the university’s extensive offerings. UNT’s College of Visual Arts and Design offers a wide variety of classes in two-dimensional and three-dimensional arts, graphic design, fashion and interior design, and art history. UNT’s College of Music was ranked as the best music program in Texas in 2014, and while most of its classes are open only to music majors, TAMS students can still benefit from its courses for non-majors. The presence of a prestigious music school also means that TAMS students have easy access to potential teachers and tutors if they wish to take private lessons in vocal or instrumental music.
While it is not required, students are encouraged to bring a desktop or laptop computer to campus with them. Additionally, their dormitory includes a computer lab for the exclusive use of TAMS students.
Students who are allowed to take electives may choose from UNT’s extensive offerings in technology.
TAMSters may participate in just about any of the on-campus organizations at UNT. They also elect one representative to serve on the UNT student government. Additionally, there are a number of TAMS exclusive clubs such as Mu Alpha Theta, TAMS Medical Society, Student Council, and more.
TAMS stresses the unique potential for its students to win research scholarships and participate in projects being undertaken by university professors. The fact that students are concurrently enrolled in both high school and college allows them to apply for a much wider range of scholarships and grants than if they were simply high school students.
Although TAMS does not field any interscholastic sports teams, students may participate in any intramural sport offered at UNT. Additionally, TAMS competes once a year with a number of other boarding schools in a range of sports.
As TAMS is a residential program comprised of mostly of students not from Denton or the surrounding area, there are limited parent involvement opportunities. However, parents of alumni are sometimes invited to serve on the admissions committee.