In an effort to draw a more diverse student body, the Office of Admissions has revamped the admissions process and the Office of Student Financial Assistance has altered the way university resources are administered.
Changes in the admissions process have been spearheaded by Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jonathan Burdick, who came to UR two years ago after serving as the Associate Dean of College Admission at the University of Southern California.
Burdick has modified the undergraduate admissions application by adding an interview with an alumnus and a diversity essay in which each applicant is asked to address the question, “How will you contribute to Rochester’s diversity?”
“I’m convinced that we do not have enough diversity on this campus,” Burdick said.
The Class of 2007 had the largest yield of underrepresented minority students – black, Hispanic or Native American. The Class of 2008, however, has only 89 enrollees from underrepresented minorities.
One way in which the university has been successful in attracting minority students is by bringing students to the campus through the Multicultural Visitation Program. Students who come to the campus are more likely to matriculate than students who do not.
UR has been working with the Minority Students Advisory Board to attract minority students.
“The number of minorities on campus has decreased,” Minority Students Advisory Board Cultural Chair Jamila Ray said. “We’re just trying to [increase] the number of minorities on campus.”
MSAB takes an active role in the recruitment of students when they are on campus.
“We need to know what is being said to attract minority students, so we keep an open line of communication with the admissions office,” Ray said. “We also go on the Meridian tours.”
Ray recognizes the uphill battle UR faces in enrolling minorities.
“Rochester is a good school, but a lot of people that get into here also get into other top schools like Harvard and Yale. [Minority students] choose the reputation schools,” Ray said.
Ray also points to UR’s reputation as a place where minority students’ entertainment and programming needs are not met.
“There is a lack of minority entertainment on campus,” Ray said. “We don’t know who makes the judgments about who to bring to campus, but the social climate on campus is just not there for minorities.”
Burdick believes that issues facing the minority students on campus can be addressed by making a concerted effort at achieving a critical mass of underrepresented students so that they do not feel isolated.
Burdick does not just want to increase the numbers of minority students, but also wants UR to find 900 different students each year.
“We have students who are published poets or who spoke two or three languages before they started learning English,” Burdick said.
UR is now taking a more individualized assessment of its applicants than before Burdick arrived. The SAT is relied upon less than at other universities, while the essays and interviews are valued more.
Burdick vows to change the way UR recruits students. He would like to eliminate the impetus for students to choose UR because of money packages and encourage students to apply who would truly benefit from being here.
“UR is a small university with excellent research opportunities for students,” Burdick said. “I know that there are a thousand high school seniors who that is a perfect fit for. We don’t want students to come here because we outbid [some other school]. We want students who truly want to be here.”
UR has stopped tying the Rush Rhees Scholarship to SAT scores and has based it on what they bring to the campus instead.
“We felt it was wrong to say, ‘You got a 1350, so you get money, but if you got a 1340, sorry, you don’t get money.'”
The university now evaluates each applicant and makes a decision based on a multitude of factors. “Instead of an SAT score, we want to know what students bring to the table,” Burdick said.
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