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Notre Dame admits 3,410 students in most selective year yet

| Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Notre Dame has released its regular admission decisions, and with it the profile of the class of 2023 has started to take shape.

An increase of 1,825 students — about 9 percent — applied for this year’s application pool, comprising a record-breaking 22,200 applicants, Donald Bishop, the associate vice president for undergraduate enrollment, said.

Claire Kopischke | The Observer

The total number of applicants was not the only increase the admissions office noted. Applications for students with the highest academic credentials also increased by 22 percent.

“This was by far our most competitive and selective year,” Bishop said. “There were students that we would admit just two or three years ago, that we just couldn’t admit now.”

The class is currently composed of 3,410 admitted students from 2,050 different high schools. The types of high schools admitted students came from also displayed some diversity, with 47 percent of admits coming from public schools, 34 percent coming from Catholic schools and 19 percent coming from private or charter schools, Bishop said.

Test scores and good grades are far from the only factors that go into the admission decision process, Bishop said. The process involves various factors, like the needs of the University’s various colleges and athletic programs, the diversity of the applicant pool, the academic and personal interests of applicants and other more qualitative factors.

“Top colleges are looking for students who won’t treat this as the biggest achievement of their life,” Bishop said. “It’s just the next step and they want to use the college as a vehicle to get smarter, to get more creative and to enjoy learning more.”

Bishop said some applicants have a great transcript on paper but do not truly want to become better students and people.

“So there is a group of applicants that have exceptional credentials but actually don’t have the motivation to become better, they’re just trying to outperform everybody,” Bishop said. “The new elite student is coming up with their own questions, they’re less enamored with and driven by coming up with the answers to whatever questions they think are going to be asked and they are a lot more interested in developing their own questions.”

The admissions office is not solely concerned with making the final admit decisions, but consider how and where efforts could be made to cultivate a better applicant pool.

“As famous as Notre Dame is, we don’t want to just draw applicants that somehow have heard about Notre Dame,” Bishop said. “We’re typically under-represented in groups that don’t know as much about the University. We want leaders from all these different socioeconomic groups, so if they go back to their home environments, Notre Dame has a role in building leaders in all communities — not just necessarily limited to who already knew about Notre Dame.”

To help combat this issue, the University has started working with groups like the American Talent Initiative, Cristo Rey and QuestBridge — all of which try to find high-ability, low-income students and provide them with a richer view and greater degree of interaction with top colleges.

“QuestBridge is probably our largest relationship — we’ll probably have over a hundred students in the fall who came through the QuestBridge process,” Bishop said. 

The University is also interested in increasing representation in students and applicants. While more diverse representation overall has been on the rise, there are still groups that appear to be underrepresented.

“If you look at the non-white United States students of color, we’re at about 26 [or] 27 percent,” Bishop said. “Ten years ago we were at about 16 percent [or] 17 percent, so we’ve grown there and we’ve also grown in international [students] and we want to grow more. We also want to grow in first generation and low-income [students]. We are, in our opinion, underrepresented there compared to our peers.”

Bishop also said that the recent college admissions scandal, while it didn’t involve Notre Dame, has caused the University and other top schools to take a look at their admissions processes.

“I think all of the top schools are really evaluating what sort of mechanisms have people use to maybe distort their profiles,” Bishop said. We looked very quickly at our pool and we felt that we did our due diligence. We have every year found some students fraudulently applying, and when we catch that we dismiss their application. There’s not many cases of that, but each year there are several.”

The incoming class of 2023 was not only record setting in its academic qualifications, but also exhibited a couple of characteristic differences overall from previous classes.

“We’re looking for students who will also use School of Global Affairs, I think that’s been a big gain,” Bishop said. “We promoted the creativity side of Notre Dame more, and we looked for students who were responsive to that.”

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