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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    High standards lead to brainier freshman class

    This year’s freshman class has proved to be “”larger and more diverse,”” in addition to being more academically competitive than in previous years, according to a senior university administrator.

    While last year’s freshman class had a record high number of National Merit Scholars, this year’s class has more National Hispanic and National Achievement scholars than ever before, said Peggy Ota, vice president of enrollment management.

    The minority population of the freshman class also rose from 33 percent last year to 36 percent this year, with the most significant jump among Hispanic students, who are expected to increase by 20 percent this year.

    The number of nonresident students rose from last year as well, Ota said.

    Although the freshman class is more diverse, the 6,000 students remain academically competitive, as they faced major changes in the UA’s admission standards, Ota said.

    Previously, resident high school students within the top 50 percent of their graduating class were automatically admitted into the university.

    This year, only the top 25 percent of their class were guaranteed admission, leaving others to be reviewed before they could be admitted to the university.

    In order to make secure decisions on the remaining applicants, the UA added three short essays to its application.

    Consequently, the number of applications dropped, Ota said.

    “”When essays are added to a university’s application, the number of applicants decline around 7 to 10 percent,”” Ota said. “”The students who did apply were very serious about applying.””

    President Robert Shelton said in a press release that it is not an “”either-or proposition”” to have a freshman class that is both diverse and scholarly, calling the diversity “”tremendously satisfying.””

    Patricia MacCorquodale, dean of the Honors College, said the freshman class improves each year.

    “”We had a strong selection, where most of the students had many offers from other great colleges,”” MacCorquodale said.

    Neeru Narla, a molecular and cellular biology freshman, Flinn Scholar and National Merit scholar, said she decided to attend the UA because the price of tuition was lower than schools like the University of Southern California and the University of California at Berkeley, where she received scholarships.

    “”Even with these scholarships, the schools are still very expensive,”” Narla said.

    Narla decided she could study out of state for graduate or medical school and complete her undergraduate studies at the UA.

    Benefits of the Flinn Scholarship, a scholarship awarded to twenty Arizona high school students, include a full tuition waiver to any Arizona public school and numerous study abroad and career development opportunities.

    However, like any freshman, Neeru said she wonders how she will balance academics and her social life.

    “”It will be interesting to see how I can keep my focus,”” Narla said.

    Although exact numbers will not be available until the 21st day of classes, African American student enrollment is expected to remain the same, while Native American and Asian American students are expected to increase modestly, according to a press release.

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