When it comes to categorizing Johns Hopkins students, Lorna Whalen, dean of admissions and enrollment, says she is not a huge fan of using test scores and rankings, as these numbers don't tell the whole story. Nevertheless, when discussing the university's incoming undergraduates, she can't help but tout just a little their academic accomplishments.
"It is truly a phenomenal class," says Whalen, who took over the position as dean last September. "We are really excited about this group. When you look at the standard measures that qualify a good class, you can't help but notice that our numbers year after year keep forging ahead."
Whalen says the university continued its trend of "outstanding" recruitment results in terms of selectivity and of the quality, well-roundedness and academic performance of applicants.
Next fall, approximately 660 students will join the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, and 320 will take their place in the Whiting School of Engineering. The university's ratio of male to female students is 58 to 42.
Enrollment tallies were delayed this year because many individuals waited until the May 1 deadline to mail their deposits.
Paul White, director of Undergraduate Admissions, says one reason for this lag was that early mailing of acceptance offers--on March 24 rather than the previous April 15--gave the students more time to consider their options.
"Another reason for them to delay [sending in] their deposits is that many colleges like Hopkins, Yale, Stanford and others invite the students and their families to take a closer look at the university before mailing," White says. "So, in a sense, we are competing with each other and forcing the student to look more closely. This is good for us because Hopkins is able to compete with the elite colleges and universities because of our top academics, vibrant student body, competitive financial aid and overall outstanding reputation."
The university admitted 32 percent of the 9,444 students who applied, the lowest percentage since 1950, when the school started to keep admissions statistics. Thirty-three percent of the 9,500 applicants were accepted last year.
The median SAT score for incoming freshmen is 1383, one of the highest in recent times.
"But what makes this class interesting is that their level of play is very high," says Whalen, referring to extracurricular participation. "We are not just selecting the valedictorians. We select the person who participated in some sort of leadership role on a regional level, state level or even national level. The bar overall has gone up."
Whalen says Admissions looks for high-schoolers who logged in many hours of arts, sports or volunteer-related activities.
"We don't get many kids who are resume building at the last minute," Whalen says. "Their folders are thick. I would say most of these students have dual passions--a science lover who spends a lot of time working on his music, or a writer or poet who also has a passion for athletics."
Scholarship and research opportunities--among them the Bloomberg, Hodson Trust and Charles R. Westgate scholarships--continue to help attract a higher caliber of student to Hopkins, according to the dean.
Whalen, who brought to the university 16 years of higher-education consulting experience, says that developing new strategies to communicate what Hopkins has to offer has been her top priority. This focus has resulted in the plans for a redesigned undergraduate admissions Web site and the creation of new promotional materials based on feedback from current students, faculty and alumni. This "open process" also led to the conception of a positioning theme to tie together all the materials: One brilliant thought can change the world. What do you have in mind?
"We felt this statement captures a lot of the academic, service and research life of the students here on campus," Whalen says.
The new Web site, set for a September launch, is a total departure from the current design, according to Samuel McNair, director of enrollment marketing and recruitment. The portal-based site--fashioned after successful corporate models like Microsoft's and that of the travel site Expedia.com--will allow three different means by which the prospective student or family member can gather information: graphic and nonlinear browsing, an index of topics and Q&A links.
"In essence, it will be like either flipping channels, reading a book or asking the source directly," McNair says. "It will be a sort of self-help center."
The overall yield of commitments to the Homewood undergraduate schools increased this year, Whalen says, due in part to the express mailing of acceptance packages.
"This apparently thrilled many families," she says. "It showed that we cared about them."
Twelve percent of the class of 2004 will be comprised of international students, another record high for the university. That number is up 7 percent from just three years ago. The long list of countries represented includes Austria, Brazil, Guatemala, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Diane Fleming, director of admissions operations and development, says a chief reason for the increase is the efforts of current international students and alumni who volunteer when they return home to visit high schools and discuss the benefits of a Hopkins education.