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September 3, 2003

Freshman Class Better Than Ever

It didn't take Denetra McBride long to recognize she had made a good choice when she decided to enroll at UConn. In fact, it only took one class.

"We didn't do a lot of work - it was the first class - but Prof. David Miller went over what we're going to cover this semester, what we'll learn, and I was impressed," she said last Tuesday, as she and about 3,200 other first-year students began wrestling with the rigors of a UConn education. And, looking at the numbers for this year's incoming class, they're ready to handle anything the professors can throw at them.

McBride, a Hamden resident who also considered colleges in Boston and Philadelphia, ultimately chose UConn, she said, because she knew she would receive "a quality education" in Storrs.

McBride, an "A-student" at Notre Dame Catholic High School in Fairfield, is joining a talented incoming class. The new students represent a cohort that is larger, more diverse, and has outperformed its peers. The average Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT) for incoming freshmen was 1169, a remarkable 20 points higher than last year's entering class. There are 62 new valedictorians and salutatorians. Nearly 30 percent of admitted students completed high school ranked among the top 10 percent of their high school class. And 18 percent of the new students are from underrepresented groups.

"I never get tired of telling that story," says M. Dolan Evanovich, vice chancellor for enrollment management. "Increasing numbers of high-achieving students and their parents are responding to what is occurring on campus, and recognizing the value of a UConn education."

The increase in SAT scores is one measure of the continuing trend. With the size of the class held to 3,200, the same size as last year's freshman class, admissions staff were more selective in making their decisions, says Evanovich. He says 53 percent of applicants were offered admission, compared to 62 percent last year and 70 percent in 1995.

He adds that the applicant pool also was indicative of UConn's increasingly positive reputation - for the first time, there were more applications from out-of-state high school students than from in-state students.

Louis Baxter Jones is one of the out-of-state students. A defender on the UConn soccer team, Jones was admitted to the Honors Program. The Jackson, Miss., resident says he chose UConn from among several universities that accepted him, including both public and private universities.

"I love the rural atmosphere here," says Jones, a nutritional sciences major who hopes to go on to medical school.

After his first class last Tuesday, Jones was excited.

"It was an honors history class, and it was very good. It's going to be really interesting," he said.

The bulk of the out-of-state applications came from the East coast states, from Maine to Maryland, an area UConn officials have been targeting for several years.

The ratio of in-state to out-of-state students attending UConn remains at 70-30, despite the surge in applicants from beyond Connecticut's borders.

This year's new students will bring to nearly 27,000 the number attending the University at the Storrs campus, the regional campuses, the Law School, and the Health Center.

The freshman population at UConn's regional campuses also increased this year, to 935. Applications for admission to the Waterbury campus increased 68 percent, reflecting student excitement about the new downtown campus that opened last week. Applications to the West Hartford campus increased 15 percent. Overall, applications from students indicating a regional campus as their first choice increased 19 percent, to 1,092 from 916 last year.

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