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New Domers bring more than just stats

Claire Heininger | Sunday, August 22, 2004

Notre Dame’s 1,991 incoming freshmen may boast the most staggering academic statistics of any class in its history, but the University isn’t boasting – yet. “If you brag too much about the class, it’s like a hospital bragging about the health of the patients coming in,” Dan Saracino, assistant provost for admissions, said. “The mark of the school is what they’ve done when they leave.”And the mark of an incoming class, he continued, lies not in the test scores and the scores of extracurriculars students bring to campus, but in how well this brew of potential and experience will fit into what Saracino likes to call “the story of Notre Dame.””If we effectively tell the story of a faith-filled community, bright students who love community service, who have a certain spirit about them, then the right students will hear the story and want to be part of it,” he said, highlighting the 92 percent of incoming freshmen who participated in high school community service – and more importantly, the more than 80 percent who plan to continue volunteering at Notre Dame. “Too often, when people talk about a class, they just look at test scores, and it really is a great disservice to students because they’re so much more,” Saracino said. Not that the class of 2008 doesn’t have plenty of numbers to brag about.The average freshman enters the University this year having ranked in the top 5.5 percent of his or her high school class, and with a mean SAT score of 1367 and ACT score of 32 in tow. Seventy-three percent of the class also earned Advanced Placement credit.Amid such impressive statistics, however, is one number that Notre Dame does not find as satisfying. Only 22 percent of the class of 2008 comes from an ethnic minority background, a one percent increase over the previous class but still nowhere near the University’s target. “If we want to claim we’re educating the leaders of tomorrow, or the Catholic leaders of tomorrow, it’s not accurate with a 21, 22 percent minority [population],” Saracino said, dismissing the excuses that minority students aren’t interested in Notre Dame because it lacks an urban setting, or because of its reputation as “a white school with a black football team.” “One of my goals is to blast those stereotypes,” he said. “Why don’t you let the black students make that decision?”While Sara-cino identified another of the University’s goals as moving “further and further away from having a photograph” that represents the typical Notre Dame student, a composite picture of the class of 2008 does emerge:u Eighty-two percent of enrolled freshmen are Catholic.u Twenty-two percent are children of alumni.u Seventy-five percent participated in varsity athletics.u Twenty-three percent are children of educators. u Thirty-five percent ranked in the top five in their class.u Fifty-two percent participated in the performing arts.