B.C. Is Seen By Prospective Students As Strong on Teaching, Highly Selective

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

Boston College is seen by prospective students in several key geographic regions as a highly competitive and selective institution distinguished by the strength of its undergraduate teaching, according to an ongoing study of the University's enrollment trends.

These findings support an earlier study indicating that over the past several years the pool of BC's major competitors for applicants has changed significantly, with a decided shift to nationally prominent and selective institutions.

The study of prospects for fall 1996 admission, conducted by Maguire Associates Inc. of Concord, is examining the University's performance in recruitment and enrollment from several vantage points. Utilizing mail and telephone surveys, the study gathers information on factors that influence students' interest in enrolling at Boston College and compares results with those of similar surveys done in 1989-90. The data from these and related studies are helping administrators identify areas of strength and weakness as the University continues to foster a national reputation.

"Based on what we are seeing," said Dean for Enrollment Management Robert Lay, "it is clear that Boston College offers an ideal mix of the academic characteristics many families are seeking: strong undergraduate teaching; a two-campus location near Boston; and a curriculum invigorated by the Catholic intellectual tradition."

The first phase of the study was a telephone survey last October of high school students who had not yet applied to enter college in the fall of 1996. This segment drew samples from seven major metropolitan areas: Greater Boston, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas-Fort Worth and Washington, DC.

Students were asked to evaluate the quality of certain characteristics - such as academic competitiveness and programs, national reputation, intercollegiate athletics and faculty - at Boston College, at four other institutions similar to BC, and at flagship public, private and liberal arts institutions in their respective regions.

While Boston College performed well in general, the survey found gains in three particular areas over 1989, Lay said - academic competitiveness, national reputation and intercollegiate athletics. Undergraduate teaching, which was not evaluated in the earlier survey, was identified as a major strength, Lay said.

"The emphasis on undergraduate teaching is the one attribute that gives Boston College an advantage over selected national universities," he explained. "Moreover, our teaching reputation gives the University a greater advantage in areas more distant from Boston."

Views on student life and geography also figure strongly in the survey, said Maguire Associates Vice President Patricia Casey. "Boston College is striking a particularly dramatic chord among students, especially in areas such as Chicago and Florida," she said. "The perception of BC's campus life is very strong when compared to other institutions in most quarters and the University's location and its proximity to Boston make it stand out among prospective students."

The other recent study was a mail survey of students accepted for fall admission to BC, conducted in the summers of 1995 and 1989. The top 12 institutions also receiving applications from these students were ranked according to volume, offering a glimpse of Boston College's most frequent competitors.

In both years, Georgetown University was Boston College's chief cross-applicant competitor. But four institutions dropped off the list in 1995 - the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (4th), Fairfield University (7th), Providence College (9th) and the University of New Hampshire (11th) - and were replaced by Ivy League institutions - Harvard University (4th), the University of Pennsylvania (5th), Dartmouth (8th) and Brown (11th) universities. In addition, some institutions moved up the list, such as the University of Notre Dame (5th to 2nd), Cornell University (10th to 6th) and Duke University (12th to 9th).

Lay said this trend demonstrates that Boston College is pursuing the same high-achieving students coveted by some of the nation's most prestigious institutions.

"These are students who are very desirable to Boston College, in terms of both academic and leadership qualities," Lay said. "We have become more aggressive in recruiting these students and our efforts are paying off."

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