Fewer than 1,300 high school seniors received early acceptance letters from Notre Dame this December, selected from a highly competitive pool of more than 2,600 applicants - a pool slightly smaller than last year's but just as decorated.
Twenty-two of the applicants had perfect SAT scores. Each accepted student, on average, was in the top 3.7 percent of his or her class. Their average SAT score was 1420, and their ACT average was 32, admission officials said.
Assistant Provost in Admissions Daniel Saracino said it is more difficult to be accepted through early action, and this year the admissions office was particularly selective. Seven hundred and eighty applicants were denied and 590 applications were deferred to the regular admission pool.
"If there was any doubt in my mind, we deferred them," Saracino said. "We deferred students who, based on our best evaluation, we felt we couldn't decide right away ... It's not an art. It's not a science. It's making educated guesses."
Early action is typically used by recruited athletes and students with outstanding credentials, Saracino said. Students receiving early acceptances have until May 1 to confirm. Notre Dame's non-binding early action process is somewhat unique among its peer institutions, many of which rely on binding early decisions or early action-single choice.
"It's not fair to students [accepted early] to put them in a position were they're forced to make a decision [on what college they want to go to]," Saracino said. "Early action is all we have, and it all we will ever have as long as I'm here. High school counselors tell us early action is the kindest option."
Saracino said the admissions office was particularly cautious in its selection of early applicants this year in anticipation of an unprecedented number of applicants for the class of 2010.
"Based upon increases in the numbers in the past year of visitor interviews, inquiries and information sessions, we had every indicator [for an] increase in overall applications [for the class of 2010]," he said.
Saracino's prediction was dead-on. Though regular applications are still being processed - the deadline was Dec. 31 - Saracino estimates that the total number of applicants will be at least 12,600. That's 4 percent higher than 2002 - the previous record-holding year - and 8 percent higher than last year.
"The story of Notre Dame is getting out more than ever," Saracino said. "In spite of the weather and location, Notre Dame is a special place."
Saracino added that the University attracts students who want to go to school with people like themselves, and many believe that Notre Dame is where that can happen.
"Notre Dame is the only major University with a faith tradition," he said. "We're the only religiously connected school in the top 20. This is a place filled with faith-filled students."
Of the 1,241 accepted early action applicants, Saracino said 19 percent are ethnic minorities (compared to 16 percent last year), 22 percent are children of alumni and 83 percent are Catholic. He is confident the demographics and credentials of the early accepted students will be mirrored in the regular admission pool.
"We would not consider it a success this year if we did not enroll a more impressive class than ever before," Saracino said. "The class is going to be the most talented and ethnically diverse in [the University's] history."