• For the third year running, SU has received an unprecedented number of applications.
    Carlos Barron

Southwestern University announces that for the third year in a row, a record-breaking number of students have applied for admission for the 2019–2020 school year. As of May 1, SU’s official enrollment deadline, the school had received 4,757 first-year and 190 transfer applications—just two years after the number of applications surpassed 4,000 for the first time in the University’s history.

The news comes among myriad reports that many small liberal-arts colleges and universities nationwide are buckling or else have had to merge with other institutions to stay afloat. “Nationwide, the liberal-arts model is under some strain,” says Vice President for Strategic Recruitment and Enrollment Tom Delahunt. “But we are fortunate here at Southwestern that there aren’t that many small, private liberal-arts schools of our caliber in Texas. The opportunities our unique curriculum provides as well as the introduction of Mosaic for cocurricular programming has been attractive to prospective students and their families.”

The opportunities our unique curriculum provides as well as the introduction of Mosaic for cocurricular programming has been attractive to prospective students and their families.

Delahunt says the greater influx of applications was no surprise given the collaboration between the Office of Admission and the Office of Marketing and Communications “to generate more interest and excitement about the many opportunities that Southwestern presents to students. Because of marketing and branding, our direct-mail campaign, and the work our admission counselors do on the road, the number of visitors to campus was higher, and the number of people we saw at high-school visits or at other events off campus was higher. So we knew there was momentum building from 2018, which was a record-setting year.”

Southwestern is also seeing increased numbers of applications from students across demographic categories, including a 30% increase in students identifying as Asian, a 33% increase in African-American applicants, and a 46% increase in Latinx applicants. Delahunt adds that the number of students applying from outside Texas also rose dramatically—from 352 admitted students in 2018 to 457 this year. “About 15% of our incoming class will be from out of state, which has been a strategic goal of ours for many years,” Delahunt says.

The upward trend of record-setting application numbers demonstrates the University’s tremendous growth in reputation over the past two decades. According to Southwestern’s Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness, 1,495 students applied for admission for the 1999–2000 school year; in 2009, the number of applicants jumped to 2,490. A 218% increase in applications in just 20 years is only one sign that the University has evolved from being a “best-kept secret” to a nationally recognized institution of higher education (e.g., Southwestern is ranked the #1 liberal arts college in Texas, the #1 national liberal arts college in Texas, the #1 school in Texas for career services and #3 in the nation for making an impact, the #1 national liberal arts and sciences college in Texas for “Grateful Grads,” and the #1 liberal arts university in Texas for best college value).

National rankings are often based on the characteristics of incoming students, such as average ACT and SAT scores and class rank. And alongside growing application numbers, the quality of the applications assessed by Southwestern admission counselors is also improving. For example, of the students already admitted for the fall 2019 first-year class, the numbers of students scoring 30 or more on the ACT or 1300 or more on the SAT were significantly higher than those in 2018. In addition, the number of applicants graduating in the top 10% of their class has risen steadily every year over the past five years, from 399 in 2015 to 577 this year.

However, beyond rankings, the real draw for applicants is how Southwestern alumni are excelling after graduation. “We should be ranked based on how we lifted students up during their years at SU,” says Delahunt. “And our graduates are enjoying very successful lives after they leave here.”