2003 Freshman Class Continues Positive Trends

2003 Freshman Class Continues Positive Trends

Academic quality on the rise; more AHANA students applying

By Sean Smith
Chronicle Editor

If the 20th century ended with plenty of encouraging trends for Boston College's freshman applications, so far the 21st century has offered even more cause for optimism.

The 22,424 applications BC received for the Class of 2007 set a school record, surpassing by 6 percent the previous year's total of 21,131. It was the third time since 1999-2000 the University had cracked the 20,000 mark in applications received.

While those figures alone would be enough reason to celebrate, say enrollment administrators, the numbers within the numbers indicate BC's progress in attracting more AHANA students and children of alumni and, above all, undergraduates of outstanding academic ability.

"When you look at volume of applications, Boston College is easily among the top 10 private universities nationally," said Director of Undergraduate Admission John Mahoney Jr. "The word is out there - out in California, Florida, Illinois and Texas, as well as New England and the Northeast - that BC is a very desirable college."

The 2,208 freshmen this year include students from 46 states and 34 foreign countries, according to the Office of Enrollment Management, and represent one of the more selective classes in recent University history. BC's acceptance rate for the Class of 2007 was 31 percent, down from 32 percent for last year's freshman class and 34 percent for 2001-02. The rate for the freshman class of 1997, whose members graduated two years ago, was 39 percent.

Mahoney cites the mean SAT scores of the most recent freshmen classes as further evidence of BC's academic quality: Class of 2004 enrollees had a mean score of 1292, while the figure for this year's freshmen is 1314.

The middle 50 percent range of combined SAT scores for BC freshmen, Mahoney adds, has risen from 1200-1340 in 1996 to 1260-1390 for this year's class.

One of the most encouraging trends in the young century for BC's undergraduate enrollment is the 23 percent rise in AHANA applicants since 2000, says Mahoney. The 607 AHANA freshmen represent a record 27 percent of the class.

While the population of AHANA college-age students is growing nationwide, Mahoney cites the effectiveness of BC's recruiting efforts in bringing applicants of color to campus, crediting Associate Director of Undergraduate Admission Paul Bonitto Sr. and Senior Assistant Director Shamikhah Dean.

Alumni children comprise 14 percent of the freshman class, but Mahoney points to what he says is another, more significant statistic: The acceptance rate for alumni children in this year's freshman class was 55 percent, compared to 31 percent for the overall class.

"BC is definitely showing consideration toward the children of alumni," said Mahoney. "We know it is very important to many of our graduates that their kids attend the college which was such a major part of their academic and personal development, and we try to make this possible."

Early-action candidates, who submit applications by Nov. 1 and receive a decision by the end of December, are continuing to show their interest in BC, Mahoney says: Applications via early action have risen by 38 percent since 2000.

Students and their families who apply early, he said, usually "have done great research on their colleges, and tend to start the search earlier in high school. Then, if they earn admission through early action, the pressure of waiting for admission decisions until the spring is reduced."

BC this past year received some 5,400 early-action applications, Mahoney says, and could have chosen to fill its freshman ranks from that sample alone. But the University now limits enrollment from early action to no more than 30 percent of the class.

"We also tend to be highly selective at the early-action stage," Mahoney said. "While we're certainly not discouraging students who elect to go through early action, we want to be fair to those who apply later on."

Mahoney says BC's traditional humanities offerings are a major attraction for most incoming students, but the University's strengthening of its science programs - embodied in the Merkert Chemistry Center and the recently renovated Higgins Hall - has drawn attention as well. A closely related factor, he says, is the BC pre-med program, which boasts a 90 percent acceptance rate to medical schools and graduate programs.

As it was in the last century, Mahoney says location and appearance remain some of BC's best assets. "Never discount the advantage of being in Boston, which as we know is a locus for higher education. Families can come here on their vacation and see anywhere from 10 to 15 colleges in one week, so that certainly presents an opportunity to recruit prospective students.

"But once they're actually here, the attractiveness of our campus makes a huge impression. As students and their families have told us, it's just a great place to visit, and they can't help but think what spending four years here would be like."

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