The School of Engineering and Applied Science will see its largest-ever freshman class this fall – the first crop of students to study in the Science and Engineering Hall for a full year.
The school yielded 223 deposits from incoming freshmen this year, a projected 43 percent bump from last year, even after factoring in the estimated 5 percent of students who back out in the summer. There are 147 freshmen enrolled in SEAS this year.
More students submitted deposits to the University across the board this year, a total of 35 percent of applicants – two percent higher than last year – coming off a year that saw a record number of applicants. Other schools within the University did not see unusual fluctuations in application or deposit numbers, Associate Vice President and Dean for Undergraduate Admissions Kathryn Napper said.
Napper said the admissions office has spent the last few years promoting the program through engineer-specific marketing materials, tours held only for prospective engineering students and SEAS faculty traveling across the country to information sessions.
The University is just starting to see the effects of the admissions office's marketing efforts, she said, which have been supplemented by a large influx of new faculty as well as the promise of the future science building.
“The School of Engineering has just done everything right. There’s new faculty, there’s new energy...everything is just coming across very well,” Napper said.
David Dolling, dean of the engineering school, said the $275-million Science and Engineering Hall has drawn more budding engineers to GW. It is slated for completion in early 2015.
“I think just the fact that investment is being made makes GW a more attractive proposition to students,” Dolling said, pointing out the allure of a new building. “It’s nice to go to work or study where you feel your field is a priority.”
With more space for science and engineering on campus, Dolling projected the school’s undergraduate population would swell from its current 692 students to more than 750 by the time the building is completed.
“I think there will be more pressure for us to accept more students,” Dolling said. “We’ll be able to be more picky.”
This fall, the school hired 10 new faculty members. Dolling said in September that he plans to hire six more in the fall and create spots for 25 to 30 new hires in the next five years, continuing a trend of hiring the highest proportion of new faculty compared to the other schools within the University.
Jason Zara, the SEAS interim faculty director for undergraduate recruiting, said the school has boosted efforts to lure high school seniors by redesigning its merit aid program.
Zara said while the amount of money the school gives out is on par with past years, SEAS is expanding programs that go along with the scholarships, trying to show top admitted students they will get exclusive opportunities like dean’s lunches, faculty mentorships and invitations to alumni events.
Napper declined to comment on total aid given, saying the program is not funded by a set allocation of money, but allows the University to recognize students who are eligible for the scholarship.
“If you have a really good student, they may be getting similar offers and looking at different places for the same price,” Zara said. “If you can throw something on top of it like a scholar's program that has a bit more pizzazz to it, they say this place would really like me to be there.”
GW’s engineering school is smaller than most of its competitor schools, and its admitted students typically weigh offers from Boston University or public institutions like University of Maryland.
Both of those institutions have more highly regarded programs and better facilities, spurring GW to show off its more intimate size, Zara said. BU’s College of Engineering held 1,312 students last year and Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering totaled almost 3,000 students.
Because of its leaner class size, GW offers a faculty-to-student ratio of about six to one, Zara said.
“We can give them the advantages of a small place with the advantages of a bigger place,” Zara added.
Rachel Getzenberg contributed to this report