On June 6, Southwestern University officially closed the class of 2026, marking one of the earliest dates the University has finalized its incoming class in institutional history. A record 5,557 applicants competed for the 420 available spots, an increase of 17% over last year. 

Additionally, the University’s acceptance rate fell by 7%. Southwestern also met its academic and diversity goals, with more than 25% of incoming students identifying as Hispanic.

I am truly excited about the members of the class of 2026. They are diverse in a variety of ways,” says Dean of Admission Christine Bowman. “We have a larger out-of state contingency, the number of students of color is on the rise, they are both artistically and athletically inclined, and they are strong academically. When you put together that perfect class, you want a little bit of everything, and I think we were able to achieve that this year.”

Bowman attributes the increase in applications to three main factors. First, the University announced last summer that all accepted students would automatically be awarded a significant scholarship beginning in fall 2022. Second, the admission team is passionate about involving families and explaining to them how their students would have a truly personal experience at Southwestern. Finally, Southwestern was able to allow campus visits throughout most of the pandemic thanks to the diligence of faculty, staff, and students. 

In fact, Southwestern’s strict health and safety protocols ensured the University could remain open and safely hold in-person classes, athletic competitions, and fine arts performances during the last two academic years, unlike many other colleges and universities across the country. This commitment to the traditional residential liberal arts experience is a major draw for many students.

“Students are ready for an in-person, engaging, collaborative experience, and that’s what we’re able to provide here at Southwestern,” Bowman explains. “They’re excited about connecting with each other, connecting with faculty, and getting into the classroom.”

Vice President for Strategic Recruitment and Enrollment Tom Delahunt agrees that all of these factors played an important role in the University’s success this admission cycle. He notes that Southwestern also offers an excellent return on investment.

“The data show that our students go on to graduate school, medical school, law school, and successful careers at a very high rate. We are preparing them well for life after college,” Delahunt says. “Our mission is not to prepare students for one job or one career, but to prepare them for life and to challenge them in different ways. We make sure they understand what it’s like to be a functioning, contributing adult in society, whether at work or in their community.”

Bowman concurs. “Southwestern sets students up for success not just in the short term, but 10, 15, 20 years down the road when they might be ready to move into a second career,” she says. “We prepare them to be viable job candidates and leaders no matter where life may take them.”