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Early action applications up 11.5 percent

Rohan Anand | Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Early action applications to the University rose to 4,247 this year, up 11.5 percent from last year, Assistant Provost for Undergraduate Admissions Dan Saracino said.

This year’s applicant pool includes a 45 percent increase in the number of ethnic minorities seeking early admittance to Notre Dame, as well as a 106 percent increase in international students. A total of 799 minorities and 126 international students submitted early action applications this fall, Saracino said.

He called those figures “healthy increases.”

“My projection is that we will come out of early action with an admitted group of students with higher academic records and extracurricular activities than ever before,” Saracino said. “However, even more notable will be the amount of diversity – ethnically, internationally, and socio-economically – that will be reflected in next year’s freshman class.”

Visitations to the admissions office have also been up 16 percent this year, Saracino said, and admissions officers are receiving more inquiries from students and high school counselors via e-mail, phone calls and application requests.

Saracino attributed the increases in international student applications to his office’s outreach efforts, which include increased traveling to other countries to market Notre Dame, mobilizing the alumni abroad to contact high school students and the University’s financial aid options for international students.

Historically, the University has seen a high level of interest from students in Latin America, he said, but more recently his office has been targeting Asian countries heavily. This year, for example, South Korea boasts the highest number of international students enrolled in the current freshman class.

“The economy is doing extremely well in Asia, so we’re putting our money where our mouth is,” Saracino said.

While admissions would like to see more applicants from areas like the Middle East, Africa and Australia, limited time and resources prevents the office from establishing the markets they are developing in areas like Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and mainland China, for example, Saracino said.

Another big change this year is the lack of early admission programs at several peer institutions. Saracino said the admissions committee thinks the decisions of Harvard, Princeton and the University of Virginia to eliminate their early admissions programs last fall have already had a bearing on Notre Dame’s admissions process this year – and will continue to do so.

Because there are usually overlapping candidates that apply to those schools and to Notre Dame, many students admitted early will not accept or decline their offer until the spring, when those other schools have released their decisions.

“That could cause some confusion within our application pool, and it will be different to predict a yield on early action and regular action students,” Saracino said.

The University has also teamed this year with companies such as QuestBridge and the outside vendor Royall & Company to attract more domestic students. QuestBridge, an online Web site, helps the admissions committee identify talented students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and matches them with the good financial aid packages the University can offer, Saracino said.

Royall & Company, based in Richmond, Va., targets high-achieving minority students and includes them in a database of potential applicants. It means applicants are identified earlier than ever before.

“For us, undergraduate admissions has evolved into an 18-month cycle instead of 12-month cycle,” Saracino said.

In order to be considered for early action admission, candidates had to submit applications to the admissions office either electronically or through regular the postal system no later than Nov. 1. Decision letters that admit, defer or deny the applicant admission to the University are usually mailed out on Dec. 15, and admitted students have until May 1 to accept or decline the offer, Saracino said.

Other universities also offer specific early admission programs, including early decision or single-choice early action. Under a binding early decision agreement, the candidate – as well as their parents and high school guidance counselor – must sign a note pledging the applicant will attend that university if admitted. Therefore, they may only apply early to only one institution, Saracino said.

Single-choice early action, on the other hand, is non-binding but mandates the student does not apply early to other schools. Admitted students have until May 1 to accept or decline their admissions offer.

Notre Dame, however, has always offered a very basic early action program that allows students to apply early to as many schools as they wish.

“We personally do not offer early decision or single-choice early action because we don’t believe it is in the best interest of the applicants,” Saracino said. “Seniors are still going through the evaluation process and we want to give them plenty of time to review other colleges [and] receive financial aid packages so that they can make an informed decision by the May 1 deadline.”

Some universities that offer the early decision option, like Cornell, state on their admissions Web page that applying early offers an advantage for a student in the application pool because “enthusiasm for Cornell is considered a plus.”

Saracino mentioned, however, that this doesn’t necessarily apply to Notre Dame’s early program, and that there is no general advantage to applying early.

“The advantages really depend on the student,” he said.

For some students, he said, last-minute information like mid-semester grades or December standardized test scores could tip the admissions committee either way – and if it’s toward an acceptance letter, perhaps it’s in the student’s best interest his application is not reviewed until this information is in.

“So, in some cases a student’s application may become stronger after the [acceptance] decision is made,” he said. “Generally, we suggest that if a student feels that their application is ‘good’ but not ‘outstanding’ by the Nov. 1 deadline that they should wait until the regular decision deadline on Dec. 31.”

Students who are deferred under the early action program are told that their credentials will be reviewed again in the spring and that they will be notified at the same time as other regular decision applicants, around March 29. Some applicants, however, are denied under early action – and they may not re-submit applications for the same academic year, Saracino said.

“For those candidates, we usually feel that even if we waited for more information, the candidate would not be admissible,” he said. “Therefore, we’re giving them more time to look at alternative choices, and high schools appreciate this.”