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Notre Dame early application pool remains competitive

Abi Hoverman | Tuesday, January 17, 2012

For high school students hoping to walk Notre Dame’s campus as one of the Fighting Irish, the realization of their dreams continues to get more difficult.

This year’s Early Action applicant pool continued Notre Dame’s trend of increased academic and personal excellence, with 300 more prospective students applying than the year before.

Don Bishop, associate vice president for Undergraduate Enrollment, said the selection was even more competitive for the larger pool of 5,556 applicants, who were notified of their status Dec. 15. The University accepted and deferred a similar number to last year, and thus had to decline more prospective students a spot.

Bishop credits the 6 percent increase in applications to the University’s more personalized and rigorous recruitment efforts, including a redesigned viewbook and brochure materials, along with an updated website. He said Notre Dame focused on these efforts in response to a trend of top universities increasingly courting potential students.

“We have increased our interaction with interested students and their parents. The staff, faculty, students and alumni in local areas are more active. It’s been a team effort,” Bishop said. “Notre Dame’s increase of recruitment was not only something that we wanted, but something that was necessary to make the admissions experience more personal for the prospective applicants.”

Bob Mundy, director of Admissions, said this increased attention to applicants led to a record number of prospective students visiting campus in 2011.

“This is the first year we’ve had 10,000 students visit the University,” Mundy said.

Beyond the increased number of applicants, Bishop said this year’s Early Action pool continued the trend of being intellectually qualified.

“The quality of the pool is at least equal to any year we’ve ever had,” he said. “We continue to have such a strong pool of applicants that it allows us to continue to value attributes along with academic strength.”

The Admissions Office also saw more international applications than ever, with similar increases in European, African, Asian and Latin American students, Bishop said.

“We are seeing increases in each of the regions in the world. Notre Dame is intentionally increasing our global reach,” he said.

Increased travel by admissions counselors, who work outside the U.S. 10 weeks each year, and the resources and momentum provided by the Office of Internationalization have encouraged this trend.

Mundy said Notre Dame also has a tradition of national diversity.

“More of our students come from farther away to attend Notre Dame than any other top research university, with more than 80 percent of students coming from farther than a four-hour drive,” he said.

Bishop said this year’s pool appears more diverse than previous years’.

“We’re notably up in [applications of] U.S. students of color,” he said.

Two statistics that remained steady, however, were the number of applicants who were legacy students and the number of students taking college level courses in high school, Mundy said.

“The legacy application pool is one of the most consistent figures. We are within 13 applications of last year,” he said.

With the increasing academic quality of each pool, Bishop said high test scores and a high GPA do not guarantee applicants a spot at Notre Dame. He said intellectual curiosity, creativity, leadership, service and special talents valued by the University play an increasingly important role in admissions.

“Half of the students in the top 1 percent of the nation in class performance or national testing will likely gain admission, and half will not. A third of the applicants are high-ability students, but not in this top 1 percent,” Bishop said.

“However, their personal attributes and intellectual drive are so exceptional that they gain a spot in the class.”

Bishop said a student who demonstrates a special commitment and devotion over the high school years to an academic area in some form of research or hobbies would stand out to the Admissions committee.

“In these cases, a student with a devotion to a specific intellectual field that has established a provable record of productive talent will gain attention [in admissions],” he said.

The consideration of Early Action and regular applicants this spring goes beyond numbers, Bishop said, as Notre Dame’s admissions process is much more personal than plugging statistics into an algorithm.

“We spend 20,000 plus hours reading, debating and discussing applications,” Bishop said.