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Study abroad application decisions released

| Thursday, January 24, 2019

As the first week of second semester neared its end, sophomore students who applied to study abroad received their decision letters, ending an anxious two-month wait since the Nov. 1 application deadline.

Director of study abroad David Younger said the University admitted a record number of students this year.

“We accepted our highest number of applicants ever this year at 870 students. This is 60 more students than last year and just about 81 percent of applicants overall,” Younger said in an email. “Ninety percent of accepted applicants were accepted into their first choice program and the remaining 10 percent were accepted into their second or third choice program, with only six students being accepted into their third choice program.”

Both the number of students who applied and the number of students who were accepted are higher than those in past years, but only slightly so. Of the class of 2021, a total of 1,076 students applied, resulting in an 80.9 percent overall acceptance rate. Both last year and the year before had 1,022 students apply with acceptance rates of 79.3 percent and 78.3 percent, respectively. This year’s applicant pool included 50 more students and had 1.5 percent higher acceptance rate.

The class of 2021 represents the growth of study abroad in general, both in student interest and the programs themselves.

“In general, the increase in application numbers is a trend at [Notre Dame] in recent years,” Younger said. ”While there is no hard data to explain the increased interest, Younger said it could be attributed to the expansion of existing programs, the development of new programs, increased awareness of the Study Abroad Department and current political and economic climates both within the US and internationally. The class of 2021 is merely part of a growing shift in an increasingly globalized world. However, there are a few things that make the sophomore class stand out.“

First, while the number of students who applied this year did not significantly increase, the number of applications did. There were only about 50 more students who applied compared to last year, but the department received 318 more applications. This is because each student who applies can submit up to three different applications to different programs.

“The percentage increase in unique applicants (each individual student who submits an application) is a small percentage higher than last year. There is a difference between unique applicants and the high number of applications we received, however,” Younger said. “We received more applications this year due to the high number of students who applied for three different programs.”

While roughly the same number of students were interested in study abroad generally speaking, the sophomore class applicant pool suggests that they are increased in a greater variety of programs. This interest could be explained by the Study Abroad Department’s recent attempts to better market themselves in response to students’ limited understanding about the department and its programs.

“All of the information we present at our information meetings is available on our website, but we also discovered that despite the volume of information on our website, students were not reading the website consistently or in very much depth,” Younger said. “Due to these challenges, we decided to revitalize our recruitment strategy and instead of conducting a Study Abroad Fair, as we have done the past several years, we decided to have a Study Abroad Week where we would highlight events all week long that drew attention to study abroad and other internationally-focused events.”

Younger said the implementation of Study Abroad Week increased not only attendance to information sessions, but also the overall number of applicants and applications.

This year’s competition not only came from the number of applications, but also the applicants themselves. The sophomore class constituted a particularly competitive applicant pool.

“In the ten years I’ve been at Notre Dame, this was among the most competitive years in terms of overall GPA across all applicants with an average GPA at 3.57,” Younger said.

Moreover, study abroad programs are inevitably competitive because of a limitation on resources, he said.

“The difficulty comes when a very large number of applicants apply in disproportionate numbers to programs that have strict capacity limits,” Younger said. “In some locations, we are unable to add seats to a classroom, or beds to a residence hall, without going over local fire code limits.”

Younger and the Study Abroad Department understands the popularity of their programs as well as the logistical limitations, but they are constantly working to keep up with the growing interest of their students.

“The predominant factor of the competitive nature of our programs is capacity. We are aware of how popular a few of our programs are and one of things that we often do is work with all of our partners abroad, and our Global Gateways in particular, is to figure out ways that we can increase program enrollment capacity,” Younger said. “This can take any number of forms, but some examples include: developing creative scheduling solutions to allow for greater participation in required or popular classes, increasing the number of exchanged students with a particular partner, and requesting more dormitory space with our partners.”

The department’s effort to expand their programs is in accordance with their mission, he said, which is to enable as many students as they can to study abroad.

“The goal of Study Abroad is to get every student we can abroad,” Younger said. “Not every student will be able, or will want, to study abroad; but for those who can or want to study abroad, we will do our best to provide students interested in academic year and summer with high-quality programs that fit a variety of academic, cultural and personal needs.”

The growing nature of study abroad in general, the increased interest on behalf of students, Younger said, and the expansion of specific programs all contribute to study abroad becoming not only more popular, but also more competitive.

“I think the growing number of applications is positive and reflects well on Notre Dame students as shows [those] students as ones who will seize and capitalize on opportunities that are available to them,” he said.

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