The fall 2011 freshman class will be the most international in the university’s history and for the first time under half the class is from California.
Director of Admission Kirk Brennan attributed the increase in international students to more students’ applications and more students’ intent to come.
He said admissions received approximately 4,400 international applications this year, compared to 3,500 last year.
“There’s a trend nationally for international students to be coming to the U.S.,” Brennan said. “We offer a unique set of programs that attract international [students] and have been known to enroll international students at high levels for a long time.”
Additionally, he said generally around 30 percent of accepted international students come to USC, but around 45 percent said they would come in the fall.
“We have, for a couple of years, had some dedicated recruitment staff working on the ground in some of our more popular areas,” Brennan said. “We also have, for the first time, hosted some receptions for admitted students internationally like we do domestically. We had them in six cities in Asia.”
Brennan also said this is also the first year “in anyone’s memory” that will see less than half of its students coming from California.
“We see this as a major shift,” Brennan said. “Decades ago it was probably two-thirds Californian students, so it’s a big deal even to see a single percentage point shift.”
Last year’s freshman class had approximately 52 percent Californians, but Brennan said they anticipate 47 to 48 percent of the class to be California natives.
“It’s a surprise to a lot of people because there’s a long history of Californians coming to USC,” Brennan said. “Southern California’s a great place to live, and studies show people often live near where they went to college. We think people who come to study will come to stay, so it may not change our alumni base too much.”
Both the number of applications and places for the class entering this fall increased. The number of applications increased 4 percent, from 35,794 to 37,164 applications. Admissions expects approximately 2,650 students to enroll this year, compared to 2,600 last year.
The acceptance rate hit an all-time low this year, 22.7 percent, offering 8,450 students admission. Last year’s acceptance rate was 24.3 percent.
The anticipated incoming freshman class is about as ethnically diverse as last year’s class, with 21 percent coming from under-represented minority populations (black, Latino or Native American), compared to last year’s 22 percent.
Brennan also said that USC expects about 15 percent of its students be the first in their families to attend college.
“We’ve also seen a sharp rise in the percentage of first generation college students attending USC in the past couple of years,” Brennan said. “This isn’t something we always think about when we think about USC, but the classroom experience is filled with all different kinds of diversity.”
The same is true of students who are the first in their families to attend college: 13 percent of committed applicants this year and 12 percent of matriculating students last year.
In a press release, USC Dean of Admission Timothy Brunold said he was pleased with this year’s pool of applicants.
“Our incoming freshman class promises to be the highest-quality, most geographically and socio-economically diverse in USC’s 131-year history,” Brunold said.
The university attributed the overall increase in applications in part to the availability of financial aid, which increased this year, and need-blind admission, which admits students regardless of ability to pay. More than 60 percent of the student body currently receives some form of financial aid.
The university increased its undergraduate financial aid budget by 7 percent and plans to distribute more than $200 million.
“As our popularity has grown and reputation has continues to rise, we’ve become more attractive to students in other parts of world both nationally and internationally,” Brennan said.