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Freshmen set admissions records

Karen Langley | Friday, August 24, 2007

This year, being a freshman is something to brag about.

The Class of 2011 is new on the Notre Dame campus, but its members have made it through the most selective admissions process in University history.

The 1,993 students in the freshman class are among the 24 percent of applicants accepted this year by the University.

Only 15 years ago, Notre Dame accepted a full 50 percent of applicants for the Class of 1996.

Notre Dame is one of less than 10 U.S. universities that accepts fewer than 50 percent of applicants and then enrolls more than 50 percent of accepted students, said Daniel Saracino, assistant provost for admissions.

“The student who applies to Notre Dame has Notre Dame as a first choice,” he said.

The average SAT score of the freshman class – 1390 on the critical reading and math sections – is the highest on record. Eighty-four percent of first-year students ranked in the top-10 percent of their graduating classes, a figure which has varied only slightly in the last decade.

As in other recent admissions processes, many talented applicants were denied admission to the Class of 2011, Saracino said.

The class includes 19 students who achieved perfect standardized test scores of 2400 on the SAT or 36 on the ACT.

Despite the high academic marks of the class, Notre Dame seeks students who excel in other areas as well, Saracino said.

“Our goal is to create the most talented and interesting and diverse class possible,” he said.

Students who are members of an ethnic minority account for 22 percent of the class. Though this figure is down slightly from the previous freshman class, which was 24 percent minority, Saracino said no trend should be inferred from the one-year drop. When the Class of 2001 entered Notre Dame ten years ago, only 14 percent of students were of an ethnic minority.

A higher percentage of students of an ethnic minority were admitted this year than ever before, he said, but a lower proportion chose to enroll.

“We went into the May 1 deadline thinking we’d have more ethnic minority [students] than ever,” Saracino said.

The University seeks a student body which is diverse in the broadest sense, Saracino said. Socioeconomic diversity and diversity of experience are important factors as well as ethnic diversity in composing a well-rounded class, he said.

This year’s class draws from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as 21 foreign countries, Saracino said.

Three percent of the freshman class is made up of international students. The most commonly represented foreign country is South Korea, which is home to 22 members of the Class of 2011. China and Canada are the next-most represented countries.

The Office of Admissions would like to bring in a class which is five percent international, Saracino said, because “we learn from each other who are different.”

International students are the only applicants who are not guaranteed financial aid for full demonstrated need, Saracino said. The University has practiced a need-blind admissions policy and guaranteed to meet all demonstrated financial since 1997, he said.

Students who identified themselves as Catholic make up 85 percent of the class, while 23 percent of incoming freshmen are the children of an alumnus. Those proportions mirror those of the applicant pool, Saracino said.

Men account for 52 percent of the class and women 48 percent, figures that also mirror those of the applicant pool, he said. Saracino said Notre Dame can attract such high interest among men at a time when a numerical predominance of women is becoming increasingly common in higher education because of its academic majors – such as engineering, business and science and not nursing or education.

While in high school, the new freshmen were involved in a wide variety of extracurricular activities – often in leadership roles.

– 11 percent were editor of a school publication.

– 10 percent were student body president or senior class president.

– 33 percent held part-time jobs during the school year.

– 90 percent participated in community service.

– 50 percent were involved in music, art, drama or dance.

– 65 percent lettered in at least one varsity sport.

– 37 percent were captain of an athletic team.

– 7 percent became Eagle Scouts or Gold Scouts.

“We’re not looking for well-rounded students as much as a well-rounded class,” Saracino said. “We want those who are leaders.”

The incoming class also includes six sets of twins, a tinsmith who will study engineering, a student who had deferred his acceptance to serve in the Navy in the Persian Gulf and one student whose great-grandfather was one of the legendary “Four Horsemen” of the Notre Dame gridiron, Saracino said.

In the face of such strong competition, only exceptional applicants are now members of the Class of 2011, Saracino said.

“It makes me very proud as [an alumnus] to see the young men and women coming to Notre Dame,” he said. “These are students who are passionate about the place, who want to come to Notre Dame and who will leave it a better place.”