Before they even set foot on campus, Notre Dame’s Class of 2015 has broken records. With an increase of over 2,000 applications from last year, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions has put together its most accomplished group of students yet.
The mean SAT score of admitted students is 1443, a nine point increase from last year. The median student ranks in the top two percent of their high school class. Two-thirds of those in the top 3 percent of their high school class were not admitted.
Director of Admissions Bob Mundy said the strength of the admitted class’s profile is a result of the dramatic increase in applications.
“In terms of overall academic quality, this group is stronger. It is a reflection on that increase in applications,” he said. “Generally what happens when you have a big increase, you … get a [stronger] distribution of students.”
A total of 16,543 students applied to Notre Dame this year. 3,984 students were admitted and 1,853 were waitlisted. Last year’s final rate of admission was 29 percent. Before students move off the waitlist, this year’s rate stands at 24 percent.
Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Enrollment Don Bishop said this year’s waitlist students are very strong, as their average SAT score is higher than the enrolled Class of 2014.
“The waitlist profile this year is equal to the class that enrolled in the fall,” he said. “Last year a significant number of [currently waitlisted students] would have been admitted.”
Mundy said what makes the admitted class stand out is what its students have accomplished outside of the classroom, in addition to scholastic achievements.
“I think while maintaining and even advancing a class of students who are good matches for Notre Dame, we’ve seen the academic profile improve,” he said. “All those things that seem to be hallmarks of this place. A high degree of engagement outside of the classroom is still present, while we are able to improve the academic profile.”
The array of academic and personal achievements comprises the variety of factors the office looks to in admissions decisions, Bishop said.
“We tried to be as fair as we could for all the groups that are interested in coming to Notre Dame,” he said. “You have obviously the most qualified students, the students beyond the numbers with incredible leadership and service [with] special talents like sports or music. We look at academic abilities in specific areas.”
Bishop said next year’s class is actually intended to be slightly smaller than normal, creating a challenge for admissions.
“This big increase in applications and somewhat smaller class exacerbates that issue of selectivity,” he said.
Because of the top-flight academic profile of applicants, Bishop said the admissions office had to look beyond the statistics in making final decisions.
“With the numbers getting so high, the other deliberations that went on were about fit, attitude, personality…it was sobering to see how many kids adore this place and wanted to come,” he said. “It is tough to turn down so many kids who are great.”
Mundy said the office usually anticipates the early action admissions process being more selective than the regular decision process. However, he said the increase in this year’s applicant pool was a game-changer.
“What we had to do in regular action, we had to say to our staff we need to behave in regular action like we behave in early action because we know we are going to be up by 2,000 applications,” Mundy said.
A quarter of students enrolling for next year’s freshman class are expected to be legacy students, or children of alumni, Mundy said. This is one attribute of admissions that sets Notre Dame apart from other elite schools, he said.
“I would venture to say there aren’t any institutions in this selectivity range that would be able to say that,” Mundy said. “I think you would see numbers in the low teens at best with our peers.”
Mundy said additional factors of tradition at Notre Dame factor into admissions decisions.
“Managing the male-female percentage — for many of our peers that is not an issue…. They can adjust. Obviously here, we need to be a little more sensitive to that,” he said. “We have some additional challenges here because of some of the traditional differences Notre Dame offers.”
While the increase in applications has presented a challenge for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions this year, Mundy said ultimately the process has been a rewarding one.
“In my 28 years [in admissions,] this year has been unlike any other,” he said. “It is pretty exciting to feel as though we are maintaining the very special character of Notre Dame while advancing some other things.”