The 2009-2010 entering class of first-years at Southwestern University is the highest number of enrolled first-years since 1998. While the size of this class is not significantly larger than other classes in the last ten years, Southwestern received the highest number of applications ever recorded for prospective students. Approximately 2,490 applications were received, up from 1,923 the year before. The large number of applications opens the possibility for enrolling more students each year – as well as different types of students – which could change the University in several areas.
Southwestern recently decided to include an “Early Action” option for prospective students. This allows prospective students to apply and receive results on their application earlier than the normal application dates and is non-binding, unlike the “Early Decision” option. Additionally, Southwestern was able to use the Texas Common Application, which had previously been limited to public institutions. Thus, applications to Southwestern skyrocketed.
The large number of applicants, which can be expected to repeat in the following years, raises a lot of questions about Southwestern and its student dynamic. The large number of applicants does not necessarily mean that more students will be admitted, but it does allow the Admissions Department more flexibility on trying to achieve certain long-term goals in the coming years.
One of the University’s main focuses is narrowing the imbalance of females and males on campus. The 2009-2010 new students are split 60 percent female and 40 percent male, which is on right on average with previous classes. The University is trying to narrow this gender differential.
Liberal arts colleges across the nation are experiencing the same difficulty, with more and more females becoming interested in liberal arts colleges. Though some students, such as senior Matt Hanson, “do not really have any interest” in narrowing the high female to male ratio, it is one of the University’s main goals. The significant increase in applications to SU will allow the Admissions Department more control on trying to narrow the differential without sacrificing academic standards. However, narrowing the gender differential will have more to do with how many males apply each year, than just an increase in applications.
Southwestern is also concerned with increasing the diversity of the students on campus. The first-year class has 42 students (11 percent) who came from outside of Texas, as well as seven from outside the United States, which includes two students from Rwanda. sophomore student J.D. Vela comments that diversity “does not affect him on a day-to-day basis,” while Diana Wakasugi states “Southwestern tries to act like it is diverse. [A more diverse student body] would not have too much effect in the class room, but it would definitely help some students with culture shock, especially first-years.”
The Princeton Review records a total of ten foreign countries that were represented in the entire student body last year. The first-year class is bringing an additional seven international students, which is a big step towards geographic diversity. First-year Charley DeBolt stresses the importance of diversity on campus, saying “Diversity is a key component of the student body. Meeting people from different places and backgrounds significantly adds to the Southwestern experience.”
With more and more applications coming into Southwestern, the University will have more flexibility to admit students that could add to the geographic and ethnic diversity on campus. Within the next ten years, the Southwestern could have a more culturally diverse student body, substantially adding to a more intercultural Southwestern experience than students experience today.
There is also the possibility that Southwestern could admit students with higher academic standards in comparison to previous classes. Obviously more applications will include some students that have higher academic standards than, say, the middle 50 percent of the university. Amy Befeld, a first-year, states, “the [admissions counselors] made it very clear that applications were based on a number of different factors.” A main tenet of Southwestern University’s application process is the stress on non-academic achievements, such as extracurricular activities and signs of leadership. Befeld agrees with the University’s application process, saying “Those are the people are successful.” Phil Wouzley agrees, stating “Southwestern is known for attracting well-rounded students. It’s not just about academics here; the student body is very rich in many areas outside of the classroom.”
Of all of Southwestern’s goals for the student body, it is unlikely that the academic standards will change dramatically. However, we can see how the higher number of applications does affect the academic standards. For example, the first-year class did have slightly higher scores on both the ACT and SAT in comparison to previous years. Additionally, over 10 percent of the first-year class was ranked in the top three spots of their graduating class. Whether or not the academic standards increase, the higher number of applications will most likely add a more academic, intellectual community on campus – which may or may not be reflected in the academic statistics.
All three of the aforementioned goals are possibilities that can be achieved with the higher number of applications of prospective students to Southwestern. While these goals are important to the University, they will more than likely not be completed for some time. These are long-term goals that could possibly be aided by the rising number of applications for Southwestern University. Monty Curtis, Vice President of Admissions, comments that the rise in applications “did not meet some of the goals” that the University was looking to achieve. Nevertheless, the University will continue to try to narrow the female to male ratio, cultivate diversity, and sustain academic rigorousness in the coming years. Achieving these goals will take more than just more applicants to Southwestern, as we can expect to see different areas of the University working in conjunction to provide a better Southwestern experience in the future, without sacrificing any of the unique aspects Southwestern already possesses.