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Applicants face toughest competition

Sam Stryker | Wednesday, January 19, 2011

High school students applying to become the newest members of the Notre Dame Class of 2015 faced the stiffest admissions competition ever, according to Don Bishop, associate vice president for Undergraduate Admissions.

“This will be the most selective year in the University’s history,” he said. “It is likely we will admit no more than 25 percent of our highly talented applicant pool.”

Bishop said the early applicant pool was up 24 percent from last year, with 5,294 early action applications received. He said roughly 1,950 students were admitted, at a 37 percent acceptance rate, down from last year’s 42 percent acceptance rate.

Bishop said the early action acceptance rate is higher than the expected rate of admission because of the high quality of students who applied for early admission.

“Our admission rate for early applicants is higher because it is a higher ability [group] that has applied,” he said. “We encourage the higher ability students to feel comfortable applying.”

Bishop said the University makes it clear to applicants that only the strongest students should be utilizing the early action program due to its earlier evaluation period.

“Our philosophy on early action is we encourage students who feel their academic record is as high as it is going to get. They are ready to be evaluated,” he said. “Generally we suggest to students that if they feel they are a close call for admission to not apply early.”

Bishop said the University is looking for these higher quality students in the early admission process.

“It is our goal to admit students who are above the profile, but to defer students who may gain admission in the regular action pool,” he said.

Bishop said the University is also cautious in the number of students they admit early so as to not take away spots from strong applicants in the regular decision process.

“We have to hold enough positions open so the regular action pool has all the spots available to be fair to all the applicants. We have no interest in admitting too many students early and then having to tell higher ability students we ran out of spots,” he said. “We are always more careful in early action.”

Bishop said part of the challenge of the admissions process is to find students who are not only talented, but also a good match for Notre Dame.

“What we are looking for is not only the most impressive profile but the most impressive people that fit the Notre Dame mission,” he said. “We are looking for students who have already distinguished themselves with a unique set of skills that combined with a Notre Dame education we believe will produce tremendously productive and creative graduates.”

Bishop said the numbers for the overall applicant pool, including regular decision, is up 14 percent with roughly 16,500 applicants. He said this increase compares strongly with universities across the country.

“The highly selective schools that reported gains in early action applications as a group were up by about half the increased of Notre Dame’s reported gain,” Bishop said.

In processing applications, Bishop said he has noticed one of the University’s strengths is the diverse location of the applicant pool.

“If you look at the regional distribution, I think Notre Dame can be identified as the most selective highly national university,” he said. “We have probably the broadest national mix of students. We are not dominated by one single region. I think that is an important attribute of Notre Dame.”

Bishop said of the applications processed so far this year, 23 percent are from the East Coast, 12 percent from the South, 33 percent from the Midwest, 25 percent from the West, Southwest and Mountain West, and seven percent are students living outside of the United States.

Director of Admissions Bob Mundy said the amount of students visiting the school from across the country has been a strong indicator of the increase in applications. He said visitor numbers are up 10 percent for the year.

“That’s usually a pretty healthy indicator because students who visit have a two-thirds application rate,” Mundy said. “That is a significant figure.”

In addition to visiting students, Mundy said one other explanation for the increase in applications is found in the increase in travels of University counselors.

“We have traveled more. We had a couple of our counselors out in November, which was highly unusual for us,” he said. “Coming back from travel, they have commented on larger crowds at high schools and information nights.”

Mundy said one of the strongest causes for increased applications has been an increase on the University’s behalf in conveying the strengths of the Notre Dame experience to potential applicants.

“From the point of inquiry to the point of application I think we have been much better at thoughtfully messaging them about student life at Notre Dame, academic opportunities at Notre Dame,” he said.