Freshman class sets record for size, scores
By Megan Sexton, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-5400
The numbers are official: This year’s freshman class at the University of South Carolina is the biggest and the brightest in the school’s history and features plenty of home-grown talent.
Carolina’s freshman class scored an average of 1199 on the math and reading portions of the SAT, the highest in the school’s history and a 14-point increase over the previous year, the university announced Tuesday (Dec. 6). Freshman in the South Carolina Honors College scored an average of 1427, while USC’s Capstone Scholars scored a 1323 average.
Plus, USC is serving more South Carolinians. This year’s class of 4,569 freshmen has more South Carolinians (2,585) than there were total freshmen in 2000 (when total freshmen enrollment was 2,504). The class also includes a record number of out-of-state students (1,984). There are 337 African-American freshmen at USC, an increase of 42 percent in the past two years, with the number of Hispanic freshman increasing 35 percent since fall 2009, to 169 students.
“This is great news, not just for the University of South Carolina, but also for our state because this generation of students will be tomorrow’s scientists, teachers, healthcare workers and leaders who will impact communities across South Carolina, the nation and the world,” USC President Harris Pastides said. “Moreover, these numbers show that we are achieving our goals of increasing access and quality, and doing it simultaneously. Both of these goals are critical if we are to increase the number of college graduates in our state and lead positive change.” And the future looks just as bright, with another record year of applications expected for fall 2012.
“Applications for next year’s class have consistently trended up compared to the last year,” said Scott Verzyl, associate vice president for enrollment management and executive director of undergraduate admissions.
“Right now, we are up 11 percent day-to-day, but applications are still flowing in, so that will change,” Verzyl said. “I do expect another year with a record number of freshman applications. We have had a record number of applications every year for the last eight years. And they are getting better. It’s more applications and it’s a higher caliber student.”
Late next week, the admissions office will release its first round of early action decisions for students who applied by Oct. 15 for next fall’s freshman class. The priority application deadline of Dec. 1 has passed, but the university is still accepting applications for next fall, he said.
Verzyl said the numbers support USC’s success story.
“It’s a testament to all of the great things we’re doing at Carolina, from the outstanding faculty to the outstanding students we’ve already brought in who are setting the bar higher every year,” Verzyl said. “We have a comprehensive plan geared for students’ success. We have all of these programs and services we’re strategically packaging together to make the experience for students better and better and better. Current students tell their friends and family back home, and the word gets out. We deliver on the promise and more students want to be a part of Carolina.”
The university also has a comprehensive national marketing plan to recruit students from coast to coast. That national exposure is helping import intellectual capital to the state, he said. “From California to Carolina, students want to come here because they hear about the great things that are happening here,” Verzyl said, “We’re spreading the Gamecock Gospel.”
And once they come, they are staying. Verzyl said the university is also proud of its retention numbers. The freshman to sophomore year retention rate improved by 1 percent this year to 86.9 percent, the third highest rate since 1994.
“Students are not just applying. They come; they are happy; they are having a good experience, and they are staying,” Verzyl said. “It’s not about getting more numbers to apply and enroll the freshman year. We make sure the experience students have and the quality of education they receive is a good one.”
One of those freshmen who is glad she chose USC this year is Summer Franklin of Waxhaw, N.C.
“I actually had a good bit of my family go to Clemson and a good bit go to USC, so they were my top choices,” she said. “When I came on the tour I felt like it was a place I could see myself being happy and doing well. So far, that has happened.”
Franklin said she has made close friends in her residence hall, finds her classes challenging but not overwhelming, landed a part-time job in the nursing building, and is ready to switch her major from undecided to exercise science.
“So far it’s been a great first semester,” she said. “I’m feeling positive about the future.” Katie Jerald feels the same way. A freshman in the USC Honors College, Jerald went to Dutch Fork High School in Irmo, not far from the Carolina campus.
“I came here because it was cost-effective with scholarships and in-state tuition, and because of the spirit that’s at this school,” Jerald said. “I’ve been a lifelong Gamecock fan. I grew up going to football games and cheering for South Carolina in everything they did. “ And the experience has lived up to her expectations.
“It’s been wonderful. I love it here,” Jerald said. “Even though I’m only 10 minutes away from home, I feel like I’m on my own and far away from home.”
By the numbers
Average SAT for freshmen, fall 2011: 1199 (highest ever, and a 14-point increase over 2010)
Average SAT for male freshmen: 1206 (second highest ever)
Average SAT for female freshmen: 1191 (highest ever)
Average SAT scores for South Carolina Honors College: 1427
Average SAT scores for Capstone Scholars program: 1323
Total number of freshmen: 4,569
SC residents in freshman class: 2,585
Out-of-state residents in freshman class: 1,984
African-American freshmen: 337 (an increase of 42 percent since fall 2009)
Hispanic freshmen: 169 (an increase of 35 percent since fall 2009)
Freshman to sophomore retention rate: 86.8 percent, increase of 1 percent
Retention rate for freshman to sophomore female students: 88.5 percent (highest ever)
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