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Applications remain high despite football woes

Katherine Gales | Friday, November 7, 2003

Although the football team has struggled to win games this fall, the admissions office has not had much trouble winning applicants for the Class of 2008.

An applicant pool of 12,100 last year – the largest number of applications Notre Dame ever received in a single year – led to 2,002 freshmen enrolling at the University this fall, the second-largest freshmen class in school history.

“We’re still processing early action applications from the Nov. 1 deadline,” said Bob Mundy, the University’s director of admissions operations. “[The numbers] look very similar to last year’s, and last year was an all-time high.”

According to Mundy, the number of early action applications is around 3,000 – “not far off from last year’s,” he said.

In fact, according to an article in the spring edition of Notre Dame Magazine, last year’s admissions statistics surpassed the record by 19 percent.

The article attributed the sharp rise in applications to an increase in financial aid, more admissions counselors visiting high schools, expanded pre-college programs and, as the Magazine wrote, the “positive image projected by first-year football coach Tyrone Willingham, the first black head coach in any sport at Notre Dame.”

It is impossible to deny that Notre Dame’s football team puts the University squarely in the national spotlight, regardless of the team’s record.

However, the connection between the team’s success and the number of applications is tenuous at best, Mundy said.

“I don’t think I see any huge connection there,” said Mundy. “One example I do remember is the year after we won our last national championship [1988]. We actually saw a decrease in applications … so I’m not convinced of the relationship.”

Difficult losses like those to USC and Florida State don’t seem to have an effect on students visiting campus, either.

“We have large visits on football weekends,” Mundy said, “but any weekend in fall tends to be quite busy.” Despite the losses, “it hasn’t affected us early on … our pool looks pretty similar to last year, when we were 10-3.”

The profile of incoming students also closely matches that of last year’s – the University’s strongest class in academics and diversity.

“It’s rare for students to cite a very specific item [such as the football team] on their application,” said Mundy. “The most common is that they’ve had a great desire to come here ‘ever since I was a kid.’ They clearly note the spirit they feel when they visit and the special sense of community present here.”

In other news, this summer Notre Dame Magazine reported that Notre Dame ranks in the top 10 of student’s “dream schools” – a Princeton Review survey of over 1,000 students, asking where they would choose to attend if cost and admission weren’t issues. The University ranked eighth, behind Stanford, NYU, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Duke and Columbia and ahead of Brown and MIT.

Although the football team is an undeniable part of the life and spirit at Notre Dame, it is by no means the yardstick measuring the University’s success.

A variety of other factors entice students to come here, and in turn mean that very few students choose to transfer.

“With the great academic challenge [here at Notre Dame], we get the gamut of things,” said Mundy when asked why students choose Notre Dame. “It’s the academic challenge, but challenge within a family-like atmosphere.”