Class of 2021 demonstrates desire to be a ‘force for good’
Selena Ponio | Friday, August 18, 2017
As the school year begins, 2,052 new faces will be welcomed as Notre Dame’s newest students on campus, comprising the graduating class of 2021.
These students were chosen from a pool of 19,566 applicants — a record number for the University — among a group of 3,702 potential students admitted, for a final admissions rate of 18.9 percent.
Don Bishop, associate vice president of student enrollment, said the University has increased its application numbers by 5,000 applications over the past seven years, a 35 percent overall increase. He said the record number of applicants is a testament to the University’s efforts at not only recruiting, but also engaging students.
“We wanted to really engage students more than just recruit them,” Bishop said. “We’ve tried to state what we’re looking for. We’ve been more forceful in being a force for good in the world. There’s a unique mission at Notre Dame. We’ve combined this discussion of higher academics while still talking about mission and how Notre Dame’s different in its perspective.”
Aside from the first-years attending Notre Dame, Bishop said, there are also 67 students entering the Holy Cross Gateway Program this fall, a program which ensures acceptance into Notre Dame their sophomore year if students successfully maintain a minimum GPA at Holy Cross. Bishop said the academic profile of these Gateway students would place them in the top 35 most selective research universities in the nation.
In the enrolling class, 54 percent received a Notre Dame scholarship with the average funded scholarship totaling $36,000 for a student with demonstrated need. Bishop said among the nation’s top 20 private research universities, Notre Dame ranks 5th in the highest percentage of students receiving financial aid scholarships.
“The word ‘engagement’ is really important,” Bishop said. “Rather than just recruiting, we’ve tried to engage community-based organizations that have long-term relationships with high-ability students from low-income status. We’ve formed partnerships … with several big organizations who know their students for us to get to know them.”
Bishop said the need for financial diversity is important as well, and that the admissions department tries to accommodate for students from all financial backgrounds rather than just recruiting from the extremes of the spectrum.
“We don’t just have wealthy students and low-income students, we actually have a pretty strong middle-class as well,” he said.
The class of 2021 is particularly diverse in other areas as well, such as geographic location. Bishop said the University has tried to expand its global reach, and this year the incoming class will collectively travel over 1.5 million miles to begin their college careers at Notre Dame, with 750 miles being the median distance for an incoming student. This is also the first time Notre Dame will enroll over 1,000 women in its first-year class, Bishop said.
This year, the largest metro area for enrolled students is New York City, the incoming class is 81 percent Catholic, 24 percent are children of alumni and 32 percent are international students or U.S. students of color.
The application process was also more selective for the class of 2021 due to a large pool of high-achieving applicants. While over 7,500 applicants had a high school performance, a national test score or both that put them in the top 1 percent of the nation, Bishop said, only a third of these applicants were admitted.
“We’re using the numbers less,” he said. “As you get more competitive, you stop using a certain set of numbers as much as you used to because they’re so high.
“How much is there a difference between a 1580 on the SAT and a 1540? Or a 35 on the ACT compared to a 36? So you should make your decision based on other attributes on the application. We try to make the decision more on a holistic basis rather than just an algorithm based on numbers.”
Bishop said the admissions committee tried to fill the incoming class with students who strived to be ambitious in areas other than just the classroom.
“Compared to other universities, our students really believe in the mission of being a force for good in the world,” Bishop said. “Our students are this interesting balance. … There’s a balance between strong ambition to be successful and an expert in something, but also to have that expertise and that talent lead towards serving others.”
Each decision to accept a member of the class of 2021 was done intentionally and with careful thought by the admissions committee, Bishop said.
“At the end, I don’t feel there is a luck of the draw experience — it really is a very thought-filled, intentional set of decisions,” he said. “We understand exactly why this student got that spot. We’re trying to satisfy a lot of goals that the University has. So we’re looking for students in certain fields of study, the athletic department is recruiting athletes … we have all sorts of goals that the University has for us.
“There has been, over the last seven or eight years, an evolution of more creativity, more intellectual curiosity among the students at Notre Dame. They seem to be really wanting to think more about not only their academic life, but doing something with it.”