Admissions releases statistics for Class of 2020
Andrea Vale | Monday, April 4, 2016
Many high school students across the U.S. have come to see the college application process as a numbers game. Associate Vice President of Undergraduate Enrollment Don Bishop challenged this mentality when commenting on the newly-admitted class of 2020 and said that Notre Dame’s process is uniquely holistic rather than just a quantification of ability.
“We’ve chosen to use the SATs less and the ACTs less to identify talent,” Bishop said. “It’s not that we don’t use it, we just don’t use it as as much of a separator as we did ten years ago. Class performance remains the top factor – those test scores are a part of that academic view of you, but then we set that aside and we look at your personal attributes, your motivation for accomplishment. Notre Dame’s tried very hard to identify students that don’t want to just be singularly successful. They want to embrace the responsibility of forming themselves more for the benefit of others. So how do you evaluate that when they’ve applied? We read the essays, we read the other statements that they make. We look at their activities, the school recommendations. We do our very best on multiple reads and discussions on applicants to see what motivated them to do what they did and what they’ve done stronger, and give more evidence to this sense of reaching out, helping others and feeling you’re there for others, not just for yourself.”
According to Bishop, Notre Dame is more selective now than at any time in its history. Undergraduate applications to Notre Dame are up by “about 5,000” over the past six years, marking a 34 percent increase. This year, applications rose by 1,342, marking a seven percent increase, and over half of this increase in applications was comprised of applicants “who presented academic credentials that place them in the top one percent of the nation – an 18 percent increase over last year’s pool with similar credentials.”
The admitted class is 52 percent male and 48 percent female. Forty-eight percent ranked in the top one percent of their high school, while 94 percent of all admitted students ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school. The middle 50 percent of admitted students presented best SAT scores between 1420 and 1540, and best ACT scores between 33 and 35.
It was also a year of record numbers for diversity: The admitted class was 13 percent Hispanic, nine percent African American, 11 percent Asian, and one percent Native American.
Ten percent of admitted students are first generation college students.
This year’s admitted class makes Notre Dame the most geographically dispersed admitted first-year class among national research universities. Twenty-three percent is from New England and the Mid-Atlantic; 15 percent is from the South and Southeast; 33 percent is from the Midwest and central Midwest; 23 percent is from the West and Southwest; and six percent is from outside of U.S. states.
As academically competitive and diverse as the admitted class is, however, Bishop said that the numbers were not nearly as competitive as they could have been had Notre Dame employed admissions strategies used by other schools looking to improve their university’s ranking.
“There are colleges being criticized for going out there and getting a large number of applicants that they’re going to reject,” Bishop said, “A group of schools that seemingly are recruiting students they’re going to turn down. Notre Dame has not engaged in that practice. We don’t need a lower admit rate to feel good about what we’re doing, or try to be rated higher in some guide book. We’ve chosen not to play that strategy … We have a higher responsibility to not just over-encourage students that are not going to get in to apply. So that’s why you can have a seven percent rise in applications but an 18 percent rise in students that five years ago were being rated at a 50 percent rate or higher with those credentials.”
“The metrics on academics are easy to track and provide — so we have done so,” Bishop said, “However, even more impressive are the service, leadership, creative and entrepreneurial accomplishments and attributes of our students. Theses attributes have become more important in choosing our vastly talented applicants.”
About 50 percent of admitted students were viewed as a top leader in their school and community. An additional 45 percent were viewed as a strong leader in their school and community, and were most likely rated by their school to be in the top two to five percent of leadership and service.
“We’re trying to not be overly impressed with an applicant who posts good numbers,” Bishop said, “Our bet is they’re going to be a stronger, better community servant and leader than other students who have singularly good numbers, but [whose] motivation is just producing good numbers and don’t seem impressed with the opportunity for formation. Who say ‘Whatever, but what grad school am I going to get into if I go to Notre Dame? How much pay do your grads make in ten years?’ If that’s the way that they’re measuring success, they’re really just not open to this broader philosophy of what Notre Dame intends to do to you.
“So our goal is to find 2,040 freshman that are open to formation as much as possible. That they’re highly motivated, energetic, creative, but that at their core, they want to be there for others, not just their own success. We think that will make them more successful.”
Although this has been a record-breaking year for Notre Dame admissions in many respects and although selectivity for Notre Dame is at an all-time high, Bishop said the greatest selectivity that determines admission to Notre Dame is more than just a numbers game.
“We’ve been more selective on match,” Bishop said, “We’re not really interested in being a generic top ten university. We think we’re number one at who we are, and we want to keep getting better every year at being that, and not really caring about ‘where does this SAT average or admit rate put us?’ We’re looking for that fit, and fit here means mission. Notre Dame has a strong sense of who it is, and what its mission is., and we’re looking for students that we think will take full advantage of that.
“It is the philosophy by which we’re trying to engage the right kids to apply, for us to admit the right students and for them to decide whether to come or not. … What they get is, ‘I’m coming here to keep forming who I am, who I want to be, and how I’m going to be the best version of myself.’ But a part of that is not this external validation of success. And I think too many students in America today, no matter what highly selective college they go to, seem to be under a lot of pressure to conform to a certain status of what they think is impressive to others, but doesn’t impress them internally.”