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Welcome Weekend begins; UofL welcomes largest, most academically gifted class yet

August 21st, 2008

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Wes Miller, moves into Miller Hall. The Frankfort, Ky., native said campus is nice and everything is easy to find. He looks forward to meeting people and getting involved.

The University of Louisville marks another milestone this weekend with the arrival of its largest freshman and most academically gifted class — 2,600 freshmen, about 50 more than last year, with an average ACT score of 24.4. That’ a tick above last year’s ACT average of 24.3, and substantially higher than the national average of 21.1 and state average of 20.9.

The size and academic standing of incoming freshmen has risen again and again in recent years, largely as the result of collaborative efforts to recruit students involving the university’s faculty and staff, current students and administration, according to Jenny Sawyer, executive director of admissions.

Sawyer said her office builds on the university’s collective and individual strengths.

Over the last decade, for instance, UofL has developed the kind of physical and academic profile that appeals to today’s high-school graduates, starting with an attractive, park-like campus that surprises visitors who are expecting a dusty urban mix of roads and buildings; a busy and inviting student activities center that makes a priority of welcoming visitors; and full campus residence halls that now house more than 3,000 students.

To attract more high-achieving students, UofL has expanded its incentives for Kentucky’s best and brightest — a strong and growing honors program; a steady increase in university-funded academic scholarships so that UofL is now much more competitive with other schools; and more “guaranteed admissions” to medical, law, dental and competitive undergraduate programs.

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Carl Bell, left, with UPS, and Shawn Veitz, with 9th and O Baptist Church, help campus residents move in.

The key to selling prospective students on these amenities, Sawyer said, is bringing them to campus so they can see what’s here and interact with the campus community. “We’ve really been able to engage hundreds of people across campus,” from faculty and staff to more than 100 current students, she said.

In addition, UofL President Jim Ramsey makes recuiting visits to Kentucky high schools each fall, often taking along some of the university’s top research faculty members, Sawyer said.

The admissions office also regularly adapts its strategies to reach more people in different ways — it is expanding the outreach it does through technology, for instance, and targeting specific groups such as the children of alumni who may remember a much different campus.

All this is made much easier, Sawyer said, by the fact that UofL and the city of Louisville are enjoying real momentum, and the university’s administration has been able to articulate and support its goals for UofL’s student body.

“We’re not just working hard” in admissions, she said. “We’re working hard with real direction and real purpose.”

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