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Notre Dame admits class of 2008

Claire Heininger | Friday, April 2, 2004

The Notre Dame class of 2008 promises to be just as academically strong – if not stronger – than the widely-acclaimed class that preceded it, the Office of Admissions predicts.Based on the 3,359 admitted students, the last of whom received their decision letters this week, the University projects 1,975 to enroll in the fall. The average incoming freshman is expected to rank in the top 5.5 percent of his or her high school class with a median SAT score of 1370 and a median ACT score of 31. Admitted Notre Dame Scholars, who represent the top 20 percent of incoming students, ranked in the top 1.4 percent of their class with a 1518 SAT and a 34 ACT.Assistant provost for admissions Dan Saracino, said that the University’s academic reputation has made prolific strides in the last decade, attracting not only more students- the 11,483 applications received this year were second to just last year’s record total – but a stronger overall group than ever before.”The quality of the applicant pool now in terms of academics – courses taken, grades, test scores – is as strong as the actual class who enrolled at Notre Dame in the mid-90s,” he said.While the numbers alone are impressive, Saracino emphasized that the non-academic side is what makes Notre Dame shine among other elite institutions.”I would say in the last 10 years, Notre Dame has gotten steadily more and more competitive – not that we’re trying to be a Harvard, but we’re trying to be a better Notre Dame,” Saracino said. “We want to bring outstanding young men and women who are gifted, who are blessed in and out of the classroom and who want to contribute.”In addition to weighing all applicants’ academic and non-academic strengths, the Office of Admissions must also consider other factors targeted by the University, such as whether a student is a child of an alumnus or donor or comes from a minority background. Ethnic minorities are expected to make up 21 percent of the class of 2008, with alumni children at 23 percent and international students at 3 percent.Saracino pointed out that while Notre Dame’s preferred admissions policies regarding these “special interest” groups have often been publicized as weakening standards, their own need to keep pace is just as great.”Every subgroup has had to take it up a notch,” he said. “Everyone has had to become a little more competitive out of fairness, because the poor student whose father and mother didn’t go to Notre Dame, who’s not an athlete, who’s not a development interest, that student has to be stronger than any of them.”My heart goes out to those students because no one is fighting for them in the admissions process.”The interplay between all of these groups is essential to the University’s financial aid policy, Saracino added. He said that the money brought in by chief donors and alumni – “a family that contributes among the highest in the country” – creates a “symbiotic relationship” that allows less wealthy students to attend.”Notre Dame had in a sense developed a reputation for arrogance in the 70s and 80s,” he said. “I returned in 1997 because I knew and heard from everyone in the administration that [meeting all financial need] is the commitment of Notre Dame … so that dream can be realized no matter what their financial circumstances are.”The downside of attracting an exceptionally strong applicant pool, however, comes when the Office of Admissions must turn away students who are clearly qualified – and then explain these decisions to the brokenhearted.”You hear stories from the father that will say ‘I can’t go home, my daughter got her letter, and she’s been sobbing for two hours,'” Saracino said. “But what you’ve got to say, with all due respect to the father, is that [his] role is to be at home with her right now holding her and hugging her and saying ‘you know what, this isn’t about you, this is Notre Dame’s loss.”Turning down more applicants became a necessity after an unanticipated 57 percent of admitted students confirmed their enrollment last year, Saracino said. “It’s much easier to bring a class in with fewer accepts and then bring a few off the waiting list than to admit too many and you can’t go back,” he said. “We had to be more conservative.”Saracino said that unlike many other selective colleges, Notre Dame does not attempt to attract a huge volume of applicants just for the sake of statistics. Instead, it aims to attract students who are truly interested in attending, and often must apologize when those students’ dreams are disappointed.”What [University President Emeritus] Father [Theodore] Hesburgh has told me on a number of occasions is that really, if too many people are happy with your job then you’re probably not doing it fairly,” Saracino said. “You’ve got to be as fair as possible.”