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Admissions releases statistics for Class of 2020

| Monday, April 4, 2016

Many high school students across the U.S. have come to see the college application process as a numbers game. Associate Vice President of Undergraduate Enrollment Don Bishop challenged this mentality when commenting on the newly-admitted class of 2020 and said that Notre Dame’s process is uniquely holistic rather than just a quantification of ability.

_-New-Web-2020-graphicSusan Zhu

“We’ve chosen to use the SATs less and the ACTs less to identify talent,” Bishop said. “It’s not that we don’t use it, we just don’t use it as as much of a separator as we did ten years ago. Class performance remains the top factor – those test scores are a part of that academic view of you, but then we set that aside and we look at your personal attributes, your motivation for accomplishment. Notre Dame’s tried very hard to identify students that don’t want to just be singularly successful. They want to embrace the responsibility of forming themselves more for the benefit of others. So how do you evaluate that when they’ve applied? We read the essays, we read the other statements that they make. We look at their activities, the school recommendations. We do our very best on multiple reads and discussions on applicants to see what motivated them to do what they did and what they’ve done stronger, and give more evidence to this sense of reaching out, helping others and feeling you’re there for others, not just for yourself.”

According to Bishop, Notre Dame is more selective now than at any time in its history. Undergraduate applications to Notre Dame are up by “about 5,000” over the past six years, marking a 34 percent increase. This year, applications rose by 1,342, marking a seven percent increase, and over half of this increase in applications was comprised of applicants “who presented academic credentials that place them in the top one percent of the nation – an 18 percent increase over last year’s pool with similar credentials.”

The admitted class is 52 percent male and 48 percent female. Forty-eight percent ranked in the top one percent  of their high school, while 94 percent of all admitted students ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school. The middle 50 percent of admitted students presented best SAT scores between 1420 and 1540, and best ACT scores between 33 and 35.

It was also a year of record numbers for diversity: The admitted class was 13 percent Hispanic, nine percent African American, 11 percent Asian, and one percent Native American.

Ten percent of admitted students are first generation college students.

This year’s admitted class makes Notre Dame the most geographically dispersed admitted first-year class among national research universities. Twenty-three percent is from New England and the Mid-Atlantic; 15 percent is from the South and Southeast; 33 percent is from the Midwest and central Midwest; 23 percent is from the West and Southwest; and six percent is from outside of U.S. states.

As academically competitive and diverse as the admitted class is, however, Bishop said that the numbers were not nearly as competitive as they could have been had Notre Dame employed admissions strategies used by other schools looking to improve their university’s ranking.

“There are colleges being criticized for going out there and getting a large number of applicants that they’re going to reject,” Bishop said, “A group of schools that seemingly are recruiting students they’re going to turn down. Notre Dame has not engaged in that practice. We don’t need a lower admit rate to feel good about what we’re doing, or try to be rated higher in some guide book. We’ve chosen not to play that strategy … We have a higher responsibility to not just over-encourage students that are not going to get in to apply. So that’s why you can have a seven percent rise in applications but an 18 percent rise in students that five years ago were being rated at a 50 percent rate or higher with those credentials.”

“The metrics on academics are easy to track and provide — so we have done so,” Bishop said, “However, even more impressive are the service, leadership, creative and entrepreneurial accomplishments and attributes of our students. Theses attributes have become more important in choosing our vastly talented applicants.”

About 50 percent of admitted students were viewed as a top leader in their school and community. An additional 45 percent were viewed as a strong leader in their school and community, and were most likely rated by their school to be in the top two to five percent of leadership and service.

“We’re trying to not be overly impressed with an applicant who posts good numbers,” Bishop said, “Our bet is they’re going to be a stronger, better community servant and leader than other students who have singularly good numbers, but [whose] motivation is just producing good numbers and don’t seem impressed with the opportunity for formation. Who say ‘Whatever, but what grad school am I going to get into if I go to Notre Dame? How much pay do your grads make in ten years?’ If that’s the way that they’re measuring success, they’re really just not open to this broader philosophy of what Notre Dame intends to do to you.

“So our goal is to find 2,040 freshman that are open to formation as much as possible. That they’re highly motivated, energetic, creative, but that at their core, they want to be there for others, not just their own success. We think that will make them more successful.”

Although this has been a record-breaking year for Notre Dame admissions in many respects and although selectivity for Notre Dame is at an all-time high, Bishop said the greatest selectivity that determines admission to Notre Dame is more than just a numbers game.

“We’ve been more selective on match,” Bishop said, “We’re not really interested in being a generic top ten university. We think we’re number one at who we are, and we want to keep getting better every year at being that, and not really caring about ‘where does this SAT average or admit rate put us?’ We’re looking for that fit, and fit here means mission. Notre Dame has a strong sense of who it is, and what its mission is., and we’re looking for students that we think will take full advantage of that.

“It is the philosophy by which we’re trying to engage the right kids to apply, for us to admit the right students and for them to decide whether to come or not. … What they get is, ‘I’m coming here to keep forming who I am, who I want to be, and how I’m going to be the best version of myself.’ But a part of that is not this external validation of success. And I think too many students in America today, no matter what highly selective college they go to, seem to be under a lot of pressure to conform to a certain status of what they think is impressive to others, but doesn’t impress them internally.”

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About Andrea Vale

Andrea Vale is a freshman at Notre Dame who has previously written for both the Sun Chronicle and the Huffington Post. She plans to major in English with a Creative Writing concentration and a minor in Journalism.

Contact Andrea
  • subway73

    The word “gonna” has no place in this story and should not have been used by Mr. Bishop.

    • HolyHandGrenade

      He’s being quoted… perhaps there was a verbal interview… are you really going to tell him to edit his speech on the fly for the sake of grammatical correctness? “Gonna” is part of the lexicon as a pseudo-contraction, and is certainly comprehensible

      • subway73

        FUBAR is in the lexicon also, so what? If you represent du Lac, you ought to put your best foot forward and use proper English, not a colloquialism.

        • HolyHandGrenade

          Or maybe you’re just being anal-retentive over something that nobody cares about. The idea that “gonna” compromises Notre Dame’s reputation is a complete joke. Get over it.

          • subway73

            I graduated from Notre Dame before your parents were born. Frank O’Malley would look harshly on any of his students that did not write and speak using proper, formal English. Sorry, I was taught by a Notre Dame legend and his lessons have stayed with me for over 50 years. Get over yourself and don’t talk to me about priorities until you have raised a family and been on God’s earth for at least 50 years. Its bad form to preach to people when you know so little and have had such limited life experiences.

          • HolyHandGrenade

            Wow, poor taste.Talk about ad hominem and appealing to authority. That whole paragraph has nothing to do with my argument.

            If you were expecting me to be impressed I’m not. And I could just call up all the members of my family who have attended ND and they would say the same as I have – that you are being completely unreasonable and holier-than-thou about the most inconsequential matter. In fact, you are the one being preachy over grammatical purity (I’m defending impiety), as if “gonna” is some blow to credibility and academia.

  • Bill Swanson

    appears ND wants everyone to help the poor…anyone going to ND should be trying to help themselves to a better life…if not you should join the peace core or the red cross. 55 thousand a year does not come easy for most. save yourself some money-

  • Austin E Kearney, Jr. ND ’74

    Andrea: I think you omitted commenting on the number one factor in determining whether an applicant gains admission. If the applicant doesn’t fill a required ‘diversity’ pigeonhole, i.e. some flavor of ‘minority’; they had better have rich parents. Desiring some form of financial aid will eliminate you from consideration. How many Gender Studies or Poetry majors apply to N.D. telling the admissions staff, “I plan on personally borrowing nearly a quarter of a million dollars over the next four years to get my degree.” Answer, zero. The person would be rejected as an idiot.

    Also, while religion has never been an admission criteria, Notre Dame once strove to be a great Catholic university. Sadly, no more.

    • Scott Moore

      Hi Mr. Kearney,

      I just wanted to respond to a few of your points.

      Regarding financial aid, admissions offers and financial awards are separate processes. Once a student is admitted, admissions fights for those students to attend ND, and part of this fight happens using financial aid. For the Class of 2015, you can see that 779 (or 39% of) students came from a household income of less than $200,000, and 263 (or 13% of) students came from a household income of less than $80,000. These figures have undoubtedly increased in recent years. There simply aren’t enough diversity boxes to check to justify such high absolute numbers of students. As a personal case, I didn’t fit into any diversity pigeonhole, but I was admitted without any regard for my ability to pay. Source here: http://financialaid.nd.edu/prospective-students/

      Regarding religion, approximately 80% of the student body is Catholic, and this figure has barely moved for decades. One’s local diocese is a field on the application form. As a non-Catholic, I was encouraged to comment on my faith (which is Protestant), just to clarify why I would wish to attend a Catholic university.

      Thanks for your comment — I am similarly concerned with particular facets of the course Notre Dame is navigating, but with regards to admissions, I think the University gets it right.

      Scott Moore, Class of 2017

      • Yes. And in the cadre of students receiving financial aid you use in your source, 20 % are from families reporting incomes of more than $200,000/year. Which is 45 % more than than families earning $80,000.

        Curious.