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Early applicant pool larger, of higher quality

Liz O'Donnell | Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Notre Dame’s Assistant Provost of Admissions Dan Saracino said this year’s early applicant pool increased both in number and overall quality, as measured by GPA and test scores.

He said the admissions office received 4,330 applications for the Early Action deadline, which is up 13.5 percent from last year’s number.

“The good news is that we saw an increase in applications. [In addition] we saw an even greater increase in the number of minority and international applicants,” he said.

Saracino said the percentage of applicants classified as either international or ethnically diverse rose more than the 13.5 percent of the overall applicants. He also said the overall quality of the applications was greater than they’ve received in years past.

“Good news for us as well was the fact that we saw an increase in the quality of the overall applicant pool as measured by transcripts and test scores,” he said.

This fall, some schools have reported declines in early applications, which some reports attribute to the down economy. Saracino said, however, that there is no current trend in early applicants this year among highly selective schools.

“Duke, Dartmouth and Stanford all had increased applicant pools this year. Among highly selective schools there was some increase and some decrease, overall it was mixed.” he said. 

One reason Notre Dame stands apart from many of its highly selective counterparts is its commitment to offering the Early Action opportunity.

“We believe strongly in Early Action. We do not believe philosophically in Early Decision,” he said. “We don’t feel students are ready to make early decision.”

Explaining the University’s rational against Early Decision, Saracino said high school seniors would have a difficult time making a decision about where to attend college without first seeing information about their financial aid package.

“If you apply Early Decision then you don’t have the chance to [receive] other offers. Given the current state of the economy, that’s very important,” he said.

Although the economy hasn’t gotten much better since last year’s application process, Saracino said he doesn’t believe the current economic crisis had any impact on the number of applications the University received.

“Notre Dame is one of the dozen or more universities in the country that have a commitment to meeting the fully demonstrated need of every admitted student,” he said.

Part of the increase this year could be due to the switch to the Common Application in the admissions process.

Notre Dame transitioned to the common application two years ago, but Saracino said the admissions office didn’t see a substantial increase in applicants until this year.

“The first year, colleges report you see an increase in applications,” he said. “We didn’t see an increase last year, [probably] because the economy was on everyone’s minds.”

Saracino said the increase in early applications this year could be due to a number of factors other than the switch to the common application.

“This year we saw an increase and that may be a result of the common application, but it’s a result of a combination of different things. Notre Dame has gotten stronger and stronger in its reputation and we’re also meeting the needs of every admitted student,” he said.

With the Regular Decision deadline set for December 31, Saracino said he anticipates the increase in applications will continue.

“We will probably see the increase carry over. I would anticipate that we’ll have close to 15,000 applicants when the dust settles mid-January, which would be a 6 percent increase overall from last year.”