Class of 2004 Combines Academic Strength and Diversity
A record number of applications for admission to the Occidental Class of 2004 yielded a freshman class unrivaled in its academic strength and diversity, president Theodore R. Mitchell has announced.
The 3,276 applications received by the College, a 9 percent increase over last year, and the quality of those applicants placed Occidental in the enviable position of simultaneously improving its selectivity and its diversity, Mitchell said.
“It is a remarkably able class,” Mitchell said. “Almost all of the 532 students who have signed letters of commitment ranked in the top quarter of their high school graduating class, regardless of their gender, their socio-economic background, or their ethnicity.”
Eighty-four percent of students who have signed letters of commitment ranked in the top quarter of their class, up from 80 percent last year. The median SAT score for these students is 1220, up 50 points from two years ago.
“These numbers are a reflection of the quality of our new freshman class, and of Occidental’s ability to recruit top students from across the country,” said Bill Tingley, vice president of admission and financial aid, noting that 49 percent of committed students are coming from outside California or overseas. “We are a college on the move.”
Students who have signed letters of commitment to attend Occidental in the fall include 128 African American, Latino/a and Native American students – the largest combined total for these underrepresented groups in the College’s 113-year history.
The new class also includes 70 Asian Americans. Another 81 students declined to state their ethnicity, a category that has grown significantly in recent years.
The final size and composition of the freshman class won’t become clear until the end of August, when Occidental’s fall semester begins. As occurs at all colleges and universities, every year a few students who sign letters of commitment change their plans and decide not to enroll in the fall.
“Our best estimate is that we should expect to see about 480 to 490 new first-year students enroll in the fall,” Tingley said.
But it is clear that the College’s comprehensive financial aid program – 66 percent of committed members of the new class will receive some form of financial aid – and stepped-up outreach programs played a major role in Occidental’s success, Tingley said.
Over the past year, significant changes have been made in the College’s financial aid program, changes backed with a 10.2 percent increase in funding for the 2000-01 academic year, he said.
“The result is a program that benefits low-income, first-generation, and middle-income students, as well as the high achievers from all backgrounds,” Tingley said.
Financial Aid staff telephoned almost every student who received an aid package to explain how the various programs work, to help the student complete the necessary paperwork and to answer questions. They paid particular attention to students who are the first in their family to attend college, he said.
Occidental also has stepped up its recruitment efforts, attracting 450 people to the annual “Experience Occidental” open house in April. The number of prospective students flown to campus at college expense more than tripled, including 70 top prospects brought to Los Angeles for the Multicultural Scholars program.
All admitted students received a personal letter from President Mitchell, and their parents received a similar letter from Board Chair Irwin Field.
Here are the latest numbers for the Class of 2004:
§ A total of 3,276 admission applications were received, a new all-time record, up 9 percent from last year.
§ Of that number, 1,877 students were admitted, a 57 percent admit rate, as compared to 59 percent last year.
§ Some 532 students have signed letters of commitment, an increase of 31 percent from the same date a year ago.
§ Twenty-seven percent of committed students were awarded merit scholarships, including 15 Margaret Bundy Scott Scholarships, Occidental’s highest merit award for overall academic excellence, up from six last year. The Scott Scholarship is a four-year, $70,000 award.
§ Forty-three African American students signed letters of commitment, a new all-time record and a 105 percent increase over last year’s total. They will make up 8 percent of the freshman class, up from 5 percent last year.
§ Eighty-four Latino/a students signed letters of commitment, an increase of 180 percent over last year. They will make up 16 percent of the freshman class, up from 7 percent last year.
§ Fifty-nine percent of committed students are women; 49 percent are non-Californians, including students from Bulgaria, Ghana, Romania, Japan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Yugoslavia and six other countries.