Applications Top 16,000 For Second Year

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

For the second consecutive year, Boston College has received more than 16,000 applications for undergraduate admission and is experiencing an impressive surge in the number of inquiries from prospective students.

Although the application total will likely fall just short of the record 16,680 set last year, administrators said the high level of applications this decade strongly indicates Boston College's emergence as a major national university that is increasingly viewed as highly selective and competitive. Administrators also cited positive developments in areas such as the Presidential Scholars Program and applications from African-Americans.

"We continue to see a growing interest in Boston College from just about all over the country," said Dean of Enrollment Management Robert Lay, noting that the University had received about 70,000 inquiries this year, an 80 percent increase from last year. "This means we have to continue upgrading our ability to respond to that interest. It is an exciting and challenging time for the University."

Director of Undergraduate Admission John Mahoney Jr. said, at first glance, 1996 might seem a "leveling-off year" for applications. But he pointed out that the University had seen a 45 percent increase in applications from 1991 to 1995 and established a new benchmark in yearly application volume during that period.

"That is a phenomenal period of growth," Mahoney said, "especially when you consider it took place during a time when the number of high school graduates across the country declined, particularly in our traditional 'feeder' states like Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey."

Undergraduate Admission Director
John Mahoney Jr.

Boston College has thus been able to cultivate a reputation as a selective institution, administrators said, accepting less than 40 percent of applicants. At the same time, they said, the University embarked on strategies to increase the quality of its applicants and enrollees, and these have been largely successful.

Mahoney said the Presidential Scholars Program, for example, which aims to attract students in the top 2 percent of the national freshmen applicant pool, last year enrolled the highest quality group since its inception. The candidates being offered enrollment for next year's class, he said, would surpass that standard.

Lay, meanwhile, pointed to the University's two-year-old program of meeting the full financial need for students ranking in the top 25 percent of Boston College's national application pool. Roughly half the students who eventually enroll at Boston College are recruited through this program, he said.

The cumulative success of these strategies, Mahoney said, demonstrates Boston College's selectivity. "The marketplace is reacting to that message of selectivity we are sending," he said. "Therefore, we have moved into a new, highly competitive arena. It will be our challenge to convince the students - for whom we are competing with some of the nation's most prestigious and sought-after institutions - of BC's value."

Even as it strives for excellence, the administrators say, Boston College is seeking diversity in its student population. The University set a record last year in applications from African-American students, 531, and will exceed that this year, Mahoney said.

"We continue to be a popular choice for many African-American students," he said.

Over the next several weeks, accepted applicants will determine whether they will enroll in the University's Class of 2000. During the week of April 16 to 21, some of the applicants will visit the campus. In addition, every student accepted by Boston College will receive a phone call from a current undergraduate, as well as a newsletter containing University news and features.

"The newsletter includes profiles of some current students, talking about why they came to BC and what they like about it," Mahoney said. "Given that many applicants are being blitzed by materials from so many institutions, we felt this approach might work better."

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