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Notre Dame’s first-year class remains larger than normal despite admissions expecting an increase in cancellations

| Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Over the course of the year, the University expects to welcome between 2,150 to 2,180 first-year students to the class of 2024 after receiving 21,273 applications and admitting 4,055 students this cycle.

Diane Park

Predicting that COVID-19 would decrease the yield rate of first-year students, the University offered a few hundred more acceptances than in previous years; however, more students enrolled than anticipated. The incoming class is expected to be at least 100 students larger than last year’s incoming class.

With incoming international students still struggling to obtain visas, the exact number of first-year students will remain in flux for the next few months. Don Bishop, associate vice president of undergraduate enrollment, said the University will offer midyear options for international students to enroll at Notre Dame, and depending on how many students receive visas, the makeup of the class of 2024 may change.

Admissions received around 60 summer cancellations this year, in comparison to around 30 cancellations in past years. While this number was greater than in past years, Bishop said admissions prepared for an even greater loss. In addition, the number of students electing to take a gap year increased to around 60 to 100 students as opposed to the usual 15 to 20 students.

Less than half of the students who applied with an ACT of 34, 35 or 36 or an SAT score of 1500 to 1600 were admitted this year. While the typical Notre Dame student ranks in the top 1 to 2% in their high school class, Bishop said the admissions committee considers more than numbers in its review process.

“We look at the rigor of their curriculum,” Bishop said. “Did they seek out more active and creative and challenging learning opportunities? Do they like to think not just accomplish? We looked at their motivation for their success, not just their grades and test scores.”

Bishop also said admissions tries to assess how students will use the resources Notre Dame has to offer. When reviewing applications Bishop said the committee asks themselves the following questions: “Do they see the mission of Notre Dame, and do they articulate a connection with what we’re trying to accomplish? Do they want to give more to other people than just take and get tribute for their own talent?”

The demographics of the incoming class are comparable to previous years. The class is expected to be composed of 27% U.S. students of color, with 6% African American, 10% Asian American, 10% Hispanic/Latino and 1% Native American.

Bishop said 14% of the class will be what he considers “global.” Six percent of these students are international citizens, while the rest are dual-citizen American students or American students raised abroad.

“Fifty-nine nations are represented,” Bishop said. “That counts the U.S., so 58 other countries and the United States are represented. The largest countries, China and Mexico, were pretty close to tied, and then Canada, Brazil, England, United Kingdom, Puerto Rico, as a region, South Korea, Ireland, Poland and Spain.”

This year, 384 incoming first-years are first-generation college students, recipients of Pell Grants or from families who earn below $65,000. More than 100 students have a home income between $65,000 and $100,000.

“The University leadership and the trustees worked with me to increase our planning and our funding for financial aid to go out and recruit more high-need students, and we were successful in that, and I’m very proud of that,” Bishop said.

Despite COVID-19, Bishop said the yield rate for lower-income students was comparable to that of past years, but admissions saw an increase in competition for that same group of students.

“About 50% more of [low-income students] that we lost went to the top 10 schools in the country than the rest of our applicant pool,” Bishop said. “So they had more of the top 10 options in our pool. The competition for the highest ability low-income students is fierce among the top 15 schools.”

The University will also welcome 249 transfer students this year. Seventy-four of those students will transfer to Notre Dame through the Gateway Program in collaboration with Holy Cross College. Traditional transfer students account for 143 of all the transfer students, about half of which are coming from other Catholic universities. Thirty-one students will transfer to Notre Dame through programs in the College of Engineering.

“Thirty-one students are three-two or four-one engineers, so they’re three years at the other school or four years at the other school, and then they spend two or one years here getting an additional undergraduate engineering credential,” Bishop said.

Since the University gave undergraduate non-first-year students the option of living off-campus in light of COVID-19, most of the transfer students were offered and accepted campus housing.

“This is probably the first time that nearly all the transfers were given that opportunity, so in a way that’s kind of nice,” Bishop said.

Almost 1,500 high schools across the nation and the globe are represented in the class of 2024, with 44% of students having attended public high schools, 40% Catholic and 16% private or charter schools.

About a quarter of the class has chosen to enroll in the College of Arts and Letters, about 21% in the College of Engineering, 24% in the Mendoza College of Business, 28% in the College of Science and 2% in the School of Architecture.

“Science has the highest growth,” Bishop said. “Women in science has been, for the last 10 years, a real mover. There are more women going into science than men. I think the percentage of women in the science department is about 60 to 62%, so it’s a very strong trend that continues.”

To make up the first-year class, Bishop said admissions looked to admit a diverse set of students in culture, ethnic background, global awareness and economics while looking at applications from a holistic perspective. This year, he thinks, the admissions committee has met their goals.

“I used to praise our admitted classes and note how impressed I was with their accomplishments,” Bishop said. “I can now honestly say I am inspired by our students — they have done so much and care so deeply. … I would not trade our enrolling class for any other in the United States.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated over 50 incoming first-years are first-generation college students, recipients of Pell Grants or from families who earn below $65,000, and more than 40 students have a home income between $65,000 and $100,000. The Observer regrets these errors.

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About Serena Zacharias

Serena is a member of the class of 2021 majoring in Neuroscience and Behavior and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She hails from the great cheese state of Wisconsin and is a former ND News Editor for The Observer.

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