January 23, 2009 — The numbers are still preliminary, but indications are that Jack Blackburn's last entering class at the University of Virginia will be a fitting tribute to his work.
With some still trickling in, U.Va. has received a record 21,511 applications for 3,170 places in the fall's entering undergraduate class, an increase of at least 16 percent over last year's applicant pool.
This year's applicants include 22 percent more African-American students, 56 percent more Hispanic students, 50 percent more international students and 100 percent more Native American students — a diversity that was no doubt exciting to John A. "Jack" Blackburn, U.Va.'s longtime dean of admission, who died Tuesday of cancer. Blackburn, renowned for his efforts to increase the diversity of U.Va.'s student body, was in his office until the week before Christmas, as the applications began rolling in.
"He was thrilled to see so many students interested in U.Va. this year and was particularly pleased that the applicant pool was so academically strong and diverse," said Gregory Roberts, senior associate dean of admission. "He very much wanted to bring in his last class at the University and the admission office is working hard to enroll a first-year class that he would be proud of."
Roberts attributed much of the application increase to U.Va.'s move last fall to the Common Application, which makes applying easier. Under the system, students can fill out one electronic application and send it to multiple schools, though U.Va. still requires prospective students to complete a supplemental application that includes additional essays.
The recession may also have played a role in the application increase, Roberts said. "Applications to public universities seem to be up around the country, and many privates down," he noted.
U.Va. was rated as the No. 1 "Best Value" among public universities in a recent ranking released by the Princeton Review. Although that ranking was released six days after the Jan. 2 application deadline, high school seniors and their families were already aware of the University's high quality, reasonable tuition and generous financial aid, Roberts said.
It is still too early to determine the applicant pool's breakdown by state residency, as the files are still being evaluated to determine residency status. Both the in-state and out-of-state pools will likely see increases, Roberts predicted.
Likewise, the average grade-point average and standardized test scores have not yet been reliably compiled, he said.
Admissions deans will spend the next 10 weeks carefully reviewing each application. Applicants will be notified both electronically and by mail on April 1.