Assistant News Editor
This year’s freshman class has the highest high school GPAs and SAT scores of any other class, and are more diverse than ever, according to a report on first-time VCU freshmen published this October by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.
Sybil Halloran, assistant vice provost for Student Recruitment and Admissions, said the incoming students are smarter and more diverse than ever, and those trends are likely here to stay.
“I think VCU has changed over the years so it’s more appealing to a broad range of students. With a broader application pool, we’re going to take the more competitive students,” she said.
Halloran oversees the recruitment and admissions of undergraduate, graduate and international students at the university.
The average high school GPA of the class of 2016 was 3.6 and average SAT scores, using a combined math and critical reading score, were 1,111. These scores are the highest average scores of any freshman class ever at VCU.
In addition to having the highest average GPAs and SAT scores, the freshman class is also one of the most ethnically diverse the university has ever seen. The class of 2016 had the lowest population of African-American students, the highest population of international and Hispanic students and the second highest population of Asian students since the freshman class of 2003.
The class is made up of total of 3,617 enrolled students and represents the growing competitiveness and increasing diversity of the university.
Halloran said that VCU has become more attractive to a variety of students with its additions to on-campus living, availability of the dining halls and other amenities like the Cary Street Gym.
“Being a part of the VCU community is now more appealing, in addition to the gem programs VCU already has,” Halloran said.
VCU is “not necessarily more diverse on the undergraduate level, since we are already very diverse,” Halloran said. Reporting on race and ethnicity enrollment demographics is a federal requirement for universities and VCU usually enrolls between 45 and 49 percent of students from non-white backgrounds.
Additionally, VCU is keeping up with the national trend of a growing female population — this year’s freshman class is 59 percent female.
Halloran explained that part of what makes VCU appealing is that students have the opportunity to meet others unlike themselves because of the school’s diversity. The university attracts people who are interested in a broad range of ideas and concepts.
“If you’re looking for a school where everybody looks like you, VCU is probably not the school for you,” she said.
The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA) works to assist traditionally underserved and underrepresented student populations through advising, support, an appreciation of diversity and other programs to promote diversity on campus.
Faith Wilkerson, interim director of OMSA, said the growing numbers of racially diverse students on campus shows the university’s commitment to expanding student’s worldliness and enhancing their social development.
“There is no doubt that VCU over the last 10 years has (begun) to prepare its students to work in a global society,” she said. “The campus is continually facing diversity head-on.”
Wilkerson noted that VCU has also been pushing to expand diversity based on gender, religious and sexual orientation.
Junior engineering major Raheel Ahmed is a member of the Muslim Student Association and works with his group to encourage diversity around campus.
“MSA itself is a very diverse organization,” Ahmed said. MSA students come from a variety of backgrounds, and include Arab, Asian, African and white students.
Ahmed values diversity at VCU as an important part of his education.
“Other students are able to interact with people of different ethnicities and faiths which promotes both tolerance and understanding as well as a diversity of ideas,” Ahmed said. “It gives you the chance to venture out and learn about different lifestyles and cultures without having to go halfway around the world.”
Halloran expects 2013 freshman enrollment to fall somewhere between 3,650 and 3,680 students, and hopes to maintain a diverse and academically strong class. She said the growing competitive nature of the school is due to an added emphasis on academics and stricter acceptance qualifications. Combined with the growing number of applicants, the school has had to turn down more students recently and Halloran said that trend is likely to continue over the next few years as well.