Students spend their high school careers studying, taking tests and joining clubs to someday get accepted to their dream college. But scoring that acceptance letter is becoming increasingly difficult for those wanting to become Gators or Seminoles.

“It’s very, very competitive,” Carrie Bedard, owner Soar 2 Success Consulting, told First Coast News. “The years of grades, test scores and maybe an essay, A’s, B’s and a couple C’s and you’re in, are over.”

Bedard is part of the blossoming industry of so-called “fixers,” who work with students to optimize their chances of getting into their college of choice. Bedard begins working with students as early as eighth grade.

“I guess in some respects I am [a “fixer”],” Bedard said. “Because people will come to me with all this amazing stuff and say ‘what can you fix?’”

According to an annual report called the Florida State University System (SUS) Admissions Matrix, the middle range GPA of students accepted for Fall 2018 at UF was 4.2-4.6, with an SAT score of 1300-1450. For FSU, the GPA ranged 4.1-4.5 with an SAT score of 1290-1400.

“When you talk about, is it gonna get more difficult? I mean, you look at a 4.2-4.5, how can it get more difficult?” Bedard said.

According to data provided by both UF and FSU, the number of applicants has soared for both schools in the past five years. For Florida State, there were 44,186 total undergraduate applicants for the 2014-2015 school year, compared to 60,094 total undergraduate applicants for the 2018-2019 school year.

According to data from UF, there were 51,238 total applicants for Fall 2014. That soared to 62,558 total applicants for Fall 2018.

The makeup of the applicant pool at the two universities, however, is different. The majority of applicants from UF come from outside of Florida, while at FSU the majority of applicants are in-state. Both schools have seen the number of out-of-state applicants rise in the past five years while the percentage of in-state students accepted is overall trending downward.

“You’re not just competing anymore against kids in Florida that just want to go a few hours away from home, or whatever,” Bedard said. “You’re competing against kids from all over the world.”

Shannon Mellish, an FSU freshman and Bartram Trail graduate, knows how competitive the admissions process can be.

The fashion merchandising major had everything a college could want; a solid GPA and SAT score, community service, internships and participation in academic clubs. But that wasn’t enough for her first-choice school, UF.

“I didn’t cry or anything, but I was definitely, you know, upset,” Mellish said. “I feel like when you apply to colleges you kind of already know who [from your high school] is going to get in, who isn’t. But I felt like with this admission it was kind of so surprising.”

Mellish said it took her a few days to transition from a Gator to a Seminole, but in the end she feels she ended up where she was meant to be.

“I honestly couldn’t imagine being at UF,” she said. “Just because I’m so happy here.”