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ND admits diverse class of 2012

Jenn Metz | Friday, August 22, 2008

The Notre Dame class of 2012 has something to be proud of.

The estimated 1,995 first-year students moving onto campus this weekend made it through one of the toughest university admissions processes in the country. They are among the 26 percent of applicants accepted out of a total of 13,947, the second-largest applicant pool in the University’s history.

“This is a neat, exciting and talented class,” Daniel Saracino, assistant provost for admissions, said. “They are much more than just test scores.”

The acceptance rate ranks up with the top universities in the country.

“We’re not trying to make Notre Dame a Stanford, or a Harvard. We respect those schools, but we’re trying to make Notre Dame a better Notre Dame,” Saracino, a Notre Dame alum, said. “I look at the classes that are coming in, and they make the value of my diploma appreciate.”

This year’s freshmen are from the top five percent of their high school classes. Their average SAT score is a combined 1405 in Critical Reading and Math. This marks roughly a 20-point increase from last year’s class – the biggest jump in recent history.

“It really happens every year,” he said.

Twelve years ago, the average SAT score was 1303, over 100 points lower. However, Saracino said one couldn’t compare the applicants from one year to another. “It’s like apples and oranges,” he said.

“It varies every year … each class has compelling reasons to be admitted,” Saracino said.

The Admissions office aims to shape a class – and does not admit students based on numbers alone.

“Education goes on both inside and outside of the classroom,” Saracino said. “We admit bright students who are passionate.”

They also aim for diversity “in the broadest sense,” he said. “We’re not just looking for the all-American kid.”

Twenty percent of the class of 2012 is comprised of ethnic minorities, which marks a decrease from the last two years: the class of 2011 includes 22 percent ethnic minorities and the class of 2010 includes 24 percent. Saracino said these figures are not indicative of a trend.

“Three years would be a trend,” he said. “Anything less than 24 percent is not acceptable.”

Of the ethnic minorities, nine percent are Hispanic, six percent are Asian, three percent are African-American and one percent is Native American.

“Our goal for next year is to improve our ethnic diversity,” Saracino said.

Students in the freshman class hail from diverse geographic locations nationally and internationally. The Midwest and Northeast are the most represented U.S. geographic areas. The top ten states represented are Illinois, Indiana, Texas, California, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida.

Three percent of the freshmen are international, from 27 different countries. The top three foreign countries represented are Korea, Canada and China.

The confirmation rate of this year’s accepted freshman was 54 percent, one of the nation’s highest.

“Applicants have done their homework,” Saracino said. “If they’re admitted, chances are, they’re going to come.”

Fifty-two percent of the Class of 2012 are men and 48 percent are women. Eighty-three percent are Catholic. Twenty-four percent are children of alumni and seven percent are first generation college students.

Notre Dame, which boasts a strong commitment to financial aid, awarded 44 percent need-based grants. Seventy-five percent of the class is receiving some kind of financial aid.

“We are one of less than about a dozen universities that have a need-blind admissions process, and if students are admitted, they receive 100 percent of their need,” Saracino said. “That’s something I’m very proud of.”

The Class of 2012 was especially active in extra-curricular activities in high school that involved leadership positions:

– 10 percent were student government president

– 11 percent were editor of a school publication

– 90 percent participated in community service

– 64 percent lettered in a varsity sport

– 47 percent participated in music, art, drama or dance

– 7 percent participated in the Eagle or Gold Scouts.

The incoming class also contains one Olympian, a certified firefighter, one student from the island of Molokai and two students from an Alaskan fishing village of 7,000 people.

Saracino’s daughter, an alumna of Notre Dame, once told him that the opportunities to learn here are only limited by one’s need for sleep.

“That’s what we want for our children. This is a class where the students aren’t going to want to sleep,” he said.