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Notre Dame Class of 2015 excels in academics, service outside the classroom

Megan Doyle | Friday, August 19, 2011

“When I’m a teenager, my big plans are to be smart and to go to Notre Dame.”

A fourth-grade student in an elementary school classroom wrote those words in an essay more than eight years ago. This past spring, her mother sent her fourth-grade paper to the Office of Admissions as they considered her application.

The Office of Admissions said this girl will join over 2,000 freshmen and 154 transfer and readmitted students this weekend at Notre Dame for the fall semester. As one of many incoming students who dreamt of Notre Dame since childhood, her story showed that with a lot of hard work and a little help from mom’s scrapbook, getting into Notre Dame could become a reality.

Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Enrollment Don Bishop said the Class of 2015’s applicant pool was the largest in the University’s history.

“We were more selective than ever before, without a doubt,” Bishop said. “But we were more on a mission. When we were looking at who was admitted, we looked at what Notre Dame cares about in addition to the brilliant academics. We looked at leadership, the desire to serve.”

Director of Admissions Robert Mundy said the Class of 2015 was more academically talented than any previous freshman class.

“We were just over 16,500 applications, which were about 2,000 larger than our previous pools,” Mundy said. “We get it every year that this new class is the best class ever. The exciting part is that now you can dig deeper … when you have these incredibly talented students academically. Which ones among this group are the really great matches for Notre Dame?”

The average member of the freshman class ranked in the top two percent of his or her high school class, Mundy said. Thirty incoming freshmen earned perfect scores on their SATs or ACTs, and more than half the class graduated as valedictorian or salutatorian.

“They are all great. Now what we want to do is make sure they are the right students who will take advantage of the great opportunities here, but also give back,” Mundy said. “Those students who participate in community service or leadership will be as strong or stronger than in the past. As a group, we have students who are more engaged in life outside the classroom.”

Mundy estimated the enrolled Class of 2015 will total about 2,025 students. One-third of the enrolled class participated in student government in high school, according to statistics from the Office of Admissions. Ninety percent of the incoming freshmen regularly volunteered or performed service work in their community.

The Office of Admissions accepted 4,018 students for the freshman class. While the admissions process was more selective, Mundy said more admitted students enrolled at Notre Dame than expected. About 51 percent of admits enrolled for the fall semester.

“Our communication got a little better this year,” Mundy said. “We have such a great, unique message that it will resonate with students who might not have previously thought about Notre Dame. When it came application time, they might have [previously] eliminated Notre Dame. Fewer of those students did that this year.”

Mundy said the admissions staff was only able to accept seven students from the wait list.

Bishop said Notre Dame’s rank among the top schools for endowment, alumni giving and graduation rates increasingly marks the University as a more prestigious school.

“Notre Dame is really starting to reach higher levels in the ratings of individual accomplishments,” Bishop said. “And that is building a better sense that Notre Dame has become a top-10 school.”

The University’s commitment to match all perceived financial need for its students might be another draw for freshmen in difficult economic times, he said.

“About half the students are on aid, and the average aid package is about $26,900,” Bishop said.

Whether a student dreamt of Notre Dame from the beginning of elementary school or discovered the University late in high school, Bishop said he expected the Class of 2015 to quickly feel at home in the Notre Dame family.

“Notre Dame is a very aspirational college for many Americans,” he said. “You get caught up in it.”