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Observer Editorial: New Mendoza policy limits exploration

| Friday, January 29, 2016

In just a few days, applications are due for freshmen and transfer students who wish to enter the Mendoza College of Business. Mendoza is one of five colleges and schools for undergraduates at the University, a number that will rise to six when the Keough School of Global Affairs opens in the fall of 2017. According to 2014 statistics, Mendoza is the largest school on campus aside from the First Year of Studies, which, by default, includes all freshmen.

Before last year, all high school seniors applying to Notre Dame submitted the same application regardless of intended college or major. Only a handful of special cases, typically architecture and other arts students, required extra steps in the application process. Overall, applicants in years past could declare an intended yet non-binding major, and current sophomores, juniors and seniors retained the ability to switch between any of the colleges, including Mendoza.

This older system had certain drawbacks, particularly for Mendoza. Transfer students in this system were unable to attend Mendoza as a business student, even if they already had business credits. Furthermore, Mendoza placed enrollment caps on certain majors, based on grade point average and a few other contributing factors, when too many students declared their intent for those majors, specifically the finance major.

In addition to all of this, Mendoza has seen a rapid influx of students interested in the college. As a result, Mendoza has changed its admissions process beginning with the class of 2019. Beginning with that class, applicants had the option to apply for pre-approval into Mendoza. In addition to the regular application, Mendoza applications require an additional portion and a marked intent to enter the college. Students may be admitted to the University without being pre-admitted to Mendoza; in such cases, the University informs the student of his or her options, which include pursuing another course of study and re-applying into Mendoza at the end of their freshman year, which presents a far slimmer chance of acceptance.

In this new program, transfer students have a chance to matriculate into Mendoza. Though it will most likely be extremely competitive, it is a great opportunity for transfers who want to enter the college. Hopefully, the admissions cap will also allow business students to choose whichever field of business they desire.

However, the new system is not without its flaws. It puts more pressure on high school seniors who could previously wait to choose their college of choice until completing the First Year of Studies. Because the new Mendoza admissions application forces students to make a major decision before their first year, the application further separates it from the other colleges and schools on campus.

And although microeconomics is a large lecture prerequisite class for business students, it is not too helpful in deciding one’s major. Mendoza could strengthen its course offering in the First Year of Studies with an Introduction to Business class for freshmen, similar to the Introduction to Engineering course offered to prospective engineering majors. This would allow intended business majors not only to see if Mendoza is right for them, but also to discern which business major — accounting, finance, IT management, marketing or management consulting — is best for them.

Of course, these changes are necessary: As Mendoza has become more and more popular, the college’s faculty has been stretched thin. And the University does not have to look far for another school facing the same problem. Recently, the Saint Mary’s nursing program has also seen an increase in applicants. In response to the rise, Saint Mary’s changed its application process for nursing majors in order to prevent the program from accepting more students than it could support.

Changes such as these to the Mendoza application and enrollment process mark a dramatic shift for the University as a whole and for Mendoza in particular. With applications to Mendoza just around the corner, it is decision time for many students, a situation previous students did not face. While it is laudable that these changes certainly provide more opportunities for enrollment to transfer students, it is unfortunate that Notre Dame now essentially forces applicants and freshmen to make a significant decision about their academic and professional future before they have the chance to explore their options during their first year of college, a long-standing practice that has for so many years made Notre Dame different from many of its peers in higher education.

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