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Many Faces, One Body

Class of 2011 most diverse on record

Even before setting foot on Grounds this fall, the Class of 2011 made history. More than 33 percent of the 3,248 first-year students entering the University identified themselves as either minorities or international students. That is up from 2004, when about 30 percent hit a high mark for racial and ethnic diversity.

“We have clearly made major strides in recent years to create a more diverse student body,” says John A. Blackburn, dean of admission. “The University of Virginia of today is a welcoming place for students from all backgrounds.”

Asian students accounted for the greatest portion of the historic group, with 12.2 percent. Students who identified themselves as African American followed closely at 11.2 percent, and Hispanics accounted for 4.7 percent. More than 5 percent hail from other countries.

Preliminary figures indicate that 419 first-years, or about 13 percent, are legacy students, which is consistent with recent trends. In-state students account for more than 68 percent of the total.

Much of this year’s increased racial diversity can be attributed to a resurgence in the number of African-American students who accepted admission offers. That total of 367 represents the second-highest in school history and an increase of more than 33 percent over a year ago.

“We are very pleased that we were able to improve on the number of black students in this class compared with last year,” Blackburn says. He attributes the strong interest in the University to its 87 percent African-American graduation rate, which has stood for the past 13 years as the highest in the nation among public universities and higher than the rate at most private universities.

Women make up 57 percent of the entering class, which reflects a national trend. The last UVA class to be majority male entered in the fall of 1989; the last 15 entering classes have been at least 53 percent female, Blackburn says.

“Part of that phenomenon is the increase in the population of African-American and Hispanic students, where the percentage going on to college is vastly greater for women than it is for men,” he adds.

Overall, UVA received a record 18,048 applications for admission this year, surpassing the 17,338 received in 1996, and admitted 6,283 students. The 3,248 who accepted the offers of admission represent a yield of 51.6 percent. The Class of 2011 also is the largest entering class in school history, ahead of the Class of 2009’s mark of 3,112.

With so many applicants, the level of academic achievement was extremely competitive. Nearly 88 percent of enrolling students ranked in the top 10th of their class, consistent with a rising trend in recent years; in 2000, 83 percent were in the top 10th. The average combined math and verbal SAT score was 1307.

Northeastern states accounted for most of the out-of-state first-years. Maryland led the pack with 112, followed by New York (88), New Jersey (81) and Pennsylvania (78). The only Western state among the top 10 was California, with 16.

Blackburn says environmental concerns as well as political and legal interests appear repeatedly on applications. Community service also ranks high among student pursuits, and several public and independent schools are beginning to require community service for graduation. “For some people who haven’t been exposed to people who need their help, [community service] starts good habits that they carry on [to places] like Madison House,” Blackburn says.

Efforts in AccessUVa, the University’s financial program to help qualified students from low-income circumstances, enabled 181 first-years to enroll. “We hope to increase that number each year,” Blackburn says.

One new activity designed to enhance the program is a joint travel arrangement with representatives from Harvard and Princeton. “Joint teams from the three universities will be taking four weeklong tours in November to areas where we hope to see sizable numbers of low-income students,” Blackburn says.