What a Class!June 2, 2011 | by Pat Vaughan Tremmel
EVANSTON, Ill. – The enrollment deposits for the Class of 2015 have been received, and Northwestern University will have much to celebrate when its newest students make their triumphant March Through the Arch soon after arriving on campus next fall.
As part of the tradition, the freshmen, led by the Northwestern University Wildcat Marching Band and cheered on by current Northwestern students, will march through the historic arch to a rally in Deering Meadow, where the whole class will be photographed and welcomed to an indisputably “hot” university.
Take the improvement in yield (percentage of admitted students who actually enroll), which was 38.7 percent this year, up from 33.4 percent last year, and 30.9 percent two years ago.
“The striking jump in yield is all the more impressive when you consider that the vast majority of our students were also admitted to several other elite private schools and, thus, had wonderful choices,” said Mike Mills, associate provost for university enrollment. “Increasingly, students are choosing Northwestern for its uniqueness among the nation’s top schools.”
The jump in the yield followed a 25 percent increase in early decision applications of students who took themselves off the market to commit to only Northwestern if accepted. And the total number of applications -- 30,975 -- was 12 percent higher than last year and nearly double the number received in fall 2005 (16,228). Accordingly, only 18 percent of applicants were admitted this year, versus 23.10 percent last year.
And 99 of the 2,149 students enrolled in the Class of 2015 are Chicago-area residents who are the first to benefit from the Good Neighbor, Great University program. Designed to make Northwestern more affordable to talented, but economically challenged students from Evanston and Chicago, the program was initiated by Northwestern President Morton Schapiro.
President Schapiro, a leading researcher in the economics of higher education, previously was the president of Williams College, one of the country’s best liberal arts colleges. Doing as much as possible to bring homegrown talent into the Northwestern family has been a top priority during the two years he has been leading Northwestern. That process has helped to achieve another top priority – the enrollment of classes as diverse as they are capable.
The Class of 2015 represents 50 states and 32 countries; 7.2 percent (6.9 percent last year) of the students are African American; 9 percent (8.2 percent last year) are Hispanic; 7 percent are international students; 7 percent are multilingual; and 19 percent come from families who are first-generation Americans. Ninety-one percent of the admitted students were in the top 10 percent of their high school classes, and 14 percent are Pell Grant recipients.
The strategic process now underway to articulate Northwestern’s comparative advantages and serve as a blueprint for a forthcoming capital campaign amplifies one of the University’s biggest draws -- its intense focus on undergraduate education. Northwestern has carved out a niche as an elite research university that is “obsessed” with providing a broad, rich undergraduate education.
Mills argues that part of Northwestern’s uniqueness stems from the existence of six undergraduate schools, rather than one or two, which is the norm at most of Northwestern’s peer schools. Northwestern, he said, has “a culture of cross-school collaboration between faculty and students that you just don’t see at a lot of other places.”
Students may pursue focused study with leading scholars, scientists and artists and immerse themselves in projects in the laboratory, the library or the studio, on campus or around the world. And students, themselves, increasingly are winning big awards, including Rhodes and Churchill scholarships, as they take advantage of the University’s diverse offerings, from a leading journalism school, to innovative engineering and writing programs to unparalleled undergraduate research opportunities in every one of Northwestern’s schools.
The Northwestern “model” draws “quick-witted, sharp, creative” people and meshes well with what is needed to succeed in a shifting economy, Mills said. He pointed to “The World is Flat,” the book in which Thomas Friedman outlines skill sets that college graduates will need to succeed in the new Information Economy, citing the ability to collaborate, orchestrate, synthesize, explain, leverage and adapt. “This is precisely the kind of education Northwestern provides,” Mills said, noting that Friedman spoke at President Schapiro’s inauguration.
As proof, Mills said, one need only look at some of our more famous graduates, including Andrew Mason (Groupon Founder); Will Butler (founder of Grammy Award-winning Arcade Fire); Stephen Colbert (wildly popular satirist); Mary Zimmerman (theatre director extraordinaire, Northwestern professor); Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel; Julia Louis-Dreyfus (of Seinfeld fame); Heather Headley (Tony Award-winning, Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter); Seth Meyers (head writer for “Saturday Night Live”); Michael Wilbon (ESPN commentator); and Kelly O’Donnell (NBC News political reporter).Perhaps the big banner that hangs from the arch that the new students will march through in the fall is the best reminder of what the Class of 2015 is getting into at Northwestern. The banner proudly waves congratulations to recent Nobel Prize winner Dale Mortensen, the Ida C. Cook Professor of Economics in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.