Rice applications set a record

More than 17,700 apply to become part of 2014 freshman class 

Rice University has seen a 15 percent rise in the number of applications for admission in fall 2014, the largest year-to-year increase in the institution’s history. Currently at 17,715, the number of applications has nearly doubled since 2007. The university, which has increased the size of its undergraduate student body by 30 percent over that period of time, plans to enroll 945 freshman students in the fall.

Chris Muñoz, vice president for enrollment at Rice, said applications have simultaneously grown in quality.

“We offer a culture that is very inviting to a lot of students,” Muñoz said. “We’ve worked hard to improve the applicant pool, not just in number but also quality, in terms of academic preparation and other attributes we look for in students and how they can make Rice a better university.

“The wonderful growth in our application pool is good for everyone, for the whole Rice community.”

Sallyport

Rice University freshman enter the campus for matriculation through the Sallyport, the grand arch in Rice's Lovett Hall. By tradition, they won't pass through the arch again until commencement. A record number of students applied to become students at Rice this year. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

Muñoz attributed the year-to-year increases to rising awareness of Rice as an outstanding national research university that offers a full breadth of academic disciplines and a unique commitment to the quality of the undergraduate educational experience. That includes a student-to-faculty ratio of just over 6-to-1 in an environment in which students have the ability to build close relationships with professors who are leaders in their fields of scholarship and research. Just as important, he said, are Rice’s need-blind admissions policy and generous financial aid that reduces financial barriers to attendance.

The result, he said, is a student body marked by diversity in every sense: economic, racial, social and geographic. This year’s applications include an increase of 9 percent from Texas students, 17 percent from U.S. students outside Texas and 19 percent internationally.

“It most certainly helps to be in a geomarket like Texas right now,” Muñoz said. “We’ve made substantial inroads into improving our appeal nationally, even though it still feels daunting to challenge people’s stereotypes about Texas. But Rice is no longer a ‘best-kept secret.’”

Muñoz said competition for the best students is intensifying, and he’s seeing increased efforts to recruit Texas students by peer universities whose application numbers are falling. “Well-heeled universities with significant brands from the Northeast are coming into the Southwest, and specifically Texas — especially Houston. What is driving our economy is also drawing universities from outside of Texas to try to recruit Texas students.” 

He said Rice takes a holistic approach to admissions. “Test scores are an important baseline in determining who can do the work required, but when scores are uniformly excellent, the more important qualification becomes, ‘What can you bring?’

Rice is no longer a ‘best-kept secret.’ — Chris Muñoz

“Rice has, on the one hand, very high expectations of students, not just in the quantity but also the quality of their work, and on the other, placing those expectations within a supportive environment,” he said.

Muñoz noted that enhancements at Rice since President David Leebron introduced his Vision for the Second Century in 2006 have also increased the university’s appeal. In the past six years, the campus has added two residential colleges, the Gibbs Recreation and Wellness Center, Brockman Hall for Physics, the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, the BioScience Research Collaborative, a new home for the Glasscock School for Continuing Studies, the Brochstein Pavilion, Tudor Fieldhouse, James Turrell’s “Twilight Epiphany” Skyspace and other public art, and new food serveries. Future planned additions will include, subject to completion of fundraising, a new social sciences building, an opera house, an arts building and new athletics facilities.

“I also need to praise the work by (Vice President for Administration) Kevin Kirby’s team for keeping the campus so beautiful,” he said. “The No. 1 way to improve our success at drawing applicants is to encourage prospective students and their parents to visit Rice. Our experience is that when they visit, especially if they’ve never been to Texas, they’re surprised by the multidimensional, international community here.

“We’ve found that prospective students are far more likely to actually choose Rice if they’ve visited the campus.”

There will be no resting on laurels, though. “We’ll always work to grow the pool of applicants in a meaningful way,” Muñoz said. “It’s clear that our efforts to enhance the Rice brand have been worthwhile, but we have to work continuously to improve the quality of the product, because everyone else is, too.”

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About Mike Williams

Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.