The University of Richmond's Office of Undergraduate Admission has received 10,121 applications for entry into the Class of 2016.

Gil Villanueva, dean of admission, said that the number of students who applied for admission this year was the highest number of applicants in the school's history. These numbers represent a 50 percent increase in applicants since 2007 and a 28 percent increase within the last three years, Villanueva said.

The admissions office is looking to enroll 765 students for the Class of 2016. With 10,121 applicants, this means 13 high school students are competing for one space in the class.

Villanueva said the school had enrolled 270 new students from the fall early-decision pool, and they were reviewing the winter early-decision applications.

A number of factors attract prospective students to Richmond, Villanueva said.

The school's rising national rankings, its inclusion as a "Best Value" school by guidebooks and magazines and generous financial aid policies appeal to students and families.

Villanueva also attributes the increased number of applications to curricular offerings, the hiring of more faculty and staff, the growth of the university's endowment and the addition of $70 million worth of new buildings.

There is data to suggest that academic excellence and prestige brings people to the school, Villanueva said. Last year, 89 percent of Richmond students who applied to law schools were accepted, he said. In addition, 81 percent of students who applied to medical school were accepted, where as the national average for acceptance is 47 percent.

In addition, Villanueva personally thinks that success in athletics and other extracurricular activities, such as the men's basketball team's journey to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament last year, contributes to the growth in application numbers as well. Smart students are interested in immersing themselves in a fun and vibrant community, Villanueva said.

Despite this shocking rise in applications, the requirements for admission have not been lowered.

"What's interesting is how the academic quality and demographic composition of the applicant pool has grown along with the increase of applications," Villanueva said. He said that with each new class come more talented and diverse students who recognize the university as a match for their academic and co-curricular interests.

Villanueva said that it was interesting that the retention rates have increased while the classes have become more diverse. There are more first generation college students, more low income students, and 20 percent of students are of color. Currently, Richmond's retention rate is 93 percent and the intersection of academic quality and diversity affects this high retention rate, Villanueva said.

The admissions representatives have worked hard to visit many different places to get University of Richmond's name out and to contribute to the increase of applications.

Villanueva said representatives have been all across the country and even across the world except for the Middle East, where they hope to visit this Spring. The Office of Admission has also formed strategic partnerships with various departments on and off-campus to represent the school's value proposition including the offices of Enrollment Management and University Communications, said Villanueva.

It is not just the admission representatives who market the school, but also those who have a personal connection to the university such as students, faculty, and alumni. The facts and statistics about Richmond are on the Internet, so what most visitors are interested in are what makes Richmond amazing on a personal level, said Villanueva. The individual stories, everyday experiences, and first-hand knowledge of the school are great marketing tools.

Evan Lund, 16, and Joseph Norris, 16, are both juniors at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, M.D. They said that while their parents were the driving force that got them to visit the school, the dining hall and architecture was intriguing. Norris' mother said that she knew the University of Richmond has a good reputation. She also mentioned that James Narduzzi, Dean of the School of Professional and Continuing Studies, told her more about the school that impressed her and her son.

Taylor Durland, a Student Admission Representative, said that the tour groups have been getting increasingly larger since the first time gave a tour in January 2010. Joey Greener, another student representative, agrees. He said the groups used to comprise three or four families and now the number of visitors is up to five to eight families per group. In 2010, around 21,000 visitors went through the admissions office and this past year, 24,000 visitors have seen the campus and attended information sessions, said Villanueva.

"Richmond is the best of both worlds; a small school community with big school experiences," said Greener. He said that prospective students decide to visit because they recognize that they can't get these advantages at other places.

Contact reporter Marie Jayme at marie.jayme@richmond.edu.

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