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U.Va. welcomes 4,053 first-years to Grounds

The Class of 2026 is the most diverse in University history

Editor's Note as of Aug. 30, 2023: The overall percentage of students who identify as students of color in this article should not be directly compared to future or previous admission cycles. The methods used to calculate this percentage is not consistent across years of reporting from The Cavalier Daily, and may result in errors when making comparisons.

In addition to a competitive application cycle that reached a record-low 19 percent acceptance rate and a record-breaking 50,962 applications, the Class of 2026 is also the most diverse in University history — with 52.9 percent identifying as students of color. The University has welcomed 4,053 first-year students to Grounds.

In an email statement to The Cavalier Daily, Dean of Admission Gregory Roberts said diversity is one of the top priorities for the Office of Admission and the University.

“This is what college is all about — learning from others, expanding one’s views, challenging others but a willingness to be challenged at the same time,” Roberts said. 

27.6 percent of students identified as Asian or Asian American, a slight increase of just over one percent from 26.3 percent in the Class of 2025.

11 percent identified as Black or African American, an increase from 9.1 percent for the Class of 2025. 8.2 percent identified as Hispanic, Latino, Latina or Latinx, a one percent increase from the Class of 2025. 0.3 percent identified as Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander and 1.1 percent identified as American Indian or Alaska Native. 

The Class of 2026 also has the highest rate of first-generation college students in University history at 15.6 percent — surpassing the Class of 2025 by 2.6 percent. Additionally, 35.6 percent of students qualified for need-based student aid.

“We are looking for civic minded, thoughtful, creative, kind students who are empathetic speakers and generous listeners, who also happen to be very good students,” Roberts said. 

After receiving a total of 50,962 applications submitted through early decision, early action and regular decision combined, the University extended 9,522 offers of admission. 4,053 of those offered admission accepted the offer.  

The last three cycles of admissions have been largely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most notably, the University adopted a test-optional policy beginning in 2021 to accommodate standardized test cancellations due to COVID-19. Other academic institutions have introduced similar test-optional policies including the College of William and Mary and The University of North Carolina.

The test-optional policy led to more applicants and in turn, a lower acceptance rate. Roberts also stated that the pandemic resulted in an increase in outreach as virtual programming was quickly implemented. 

“COVID led to an investment in more effective virtual programming, which allowed us to reach more students and families, especially those who historically have not been able to visit U.Va.,” Roberts said. 

While virtual programming has been used to adapt to COVID-19, Days on the Lawn returned in-person this past spring for the first time since 2019, allowing admitted students the chance to experience the University firsthand. 

Prospective first-year students were able to experience a variety of informational sessions, tour opportunities and meet-and-greets with current students and professors. Roberts said such in-person recruitment efforts help familiarize potential students with the University. 

“We always benefit by bringing families to Grounds … the visit personalizes the college search process,” Roberts said. 

In-person orientation also returned this summer and along with Wahoo Welcome events, students will be offered the experience of interactive and hands-on programming to become better acquainted with Grounds and their peers. 

As in-person orientation returned, students from all over the country and world traveled to the University. Of the incoming students, 62.1 percent are in-state residents, which meets the University’s pledge to maintain a two-thirds majority of Virginia residents in the student population. 

37.9 percent of incoming students are out-of-state and roughly 5.7 percent are international students, representing 50 countries. 17 percent of students speak a first language that is not English. 

In addition to Days on the Lawn and other in-person tours hosted by the University Guides — which allow prospective students to become familiar with Grounds and meet their peers — the Class of 2026 will also experience a college transition minimally disrupted by COVID-19. Unlike last fall, students will not be required to wear masks in class and classes will be offered in-person.

As the University prepares to welcome the new students to Grounds, Roberts extended his congratulations to the Class of 2026. 

“They are a remarkable group,” Roberts said. “I’m not sure I have any words that will inspire them as much as they have inspired us. I can’t wait to see them begin this journey.”

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