Freshman Class Said To Be Strongest In B.C. History

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

This year's 2,168-member freshman class is academically stronger overall than any of its predecessors, according to administrators, and reflects several positive trends pointing to Boston College's status as a prominent national Catholic university.

Based on statistics compiled by the Office of Enrollment Management, the combined SAT scores of the middle 50 percent of the Class of 2001 ranged from 1210 to 1340. That represents an average increase of six points over last year's freshman class - figures which, at the time, already represented a substantial increase in academic quality, noted Dean for Enrollment Management Robert Lay.

"We are continuing on an upward trajectory in the performance of our incoming freshmen," Lay said. "The difference between the 1996 and 1997 freshman test scores may seem small in numerical terms, but it is that movement which is truly significant. We have several years experience with SAT score recentering and we can now confirm improvement in freshman test scores on the new scale."

Even as high-achieving prospective freshmen continue to show interest in Boston College, Lay points out, the University is becoming more selective. Out of 16,455 Class of 2001 applicants, BC accepted 6,455, he said, some 300 students less than in 1996. This produced a selectivity statistic of 39 percent, he said, which is appropriate for a competitive national university.

The Class of 2001, with equal numbers of men and women, also demonstrates the University's commitment to a diverse student body, administrators said. This year's freshman class includes 415 AHANA students, or 19.1 percent of the class, and the number of African-American students, 105, is among the highest in recent University history.

Administrators note that a record number of African-American students, 635, applied for the 1997 freshman class and since 1990 the number of African-Americans applying to Boston College has increased by 54 percent. The University continues to seek further gains in those areas, the administrators said .

Another encouraging trend concerns early action applicants, often among the nation's best students, who apply by Nov. 15 and receive a decision on admittance by Dec. 15. The 574 early action students in the Class of 2001 were chosen from a pool of over 2,750 applicants - slightly above the total for last year - and comprise 26.5 percent of all freshmen, representing another improvement over recent ratios.

The University's Presidential Scholars program, aimed at recruiting students in the top 1 percent to 2 percent nationally, achieved a new standard this year, Lay said, with the 12 new members averaging over 1500 on their combined SATs.

Boston College also is maintaining its ties with Catholic and Jesuit high schools, Lay said, enrolling 162 of their graduates in the freshman class - a rate among the highest for national Catholic and Jesuit institutions. Children of alumni account for 12.1 percent of freshmen, he added, which also indicates progress.

"The University has set an enrollment objective of 15 percent for alumni children," Lay said. "Twelve percent shows a significant surge and compares well to other selective national universities."

One other telling sign of Boston College's higher national profile, Lay said, is the rising number of students from states such as Texas, Florida, California, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

To counterbalance the higher-than-expected yield of students in the Class of 2000, Lay said, this year's smaller freshman class brings undergraduate enrollment down from 8,950 to approximately 8,875, a figure more in line with the University's current goals.

"Any time you are able to hold your own at this level of competition among national institutions of higher education, you are doing well," Lay said. "Looking at the numbers not only for this year, but over the past few years as well, in many ways we have moved ahead."

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