A host of upperclassmen were on hand this week to greet the new class of freshmen and help them get settled during move-in day, the always exciting kickoff of a whirlwind of activities that make up Wildcat Welcome week.

But it was the official Wildcat Welcome spectacle on September 16 that gave the entire Northwestern community a chance to celebrate the Class of 2018 as they paraded through the University’s iconic Weber Arch to the triumphant sounds of the Wildcat Marching Band and the cheers, chants, and applause of family and Northwestern community members.

After pep talks in Deering Meadow from Northwestern President Morton Schapiro and other University officials, the Class of 2018 boarded buses that took them to Millennium Park for a Purple Pride! event that gave them a taste of what Chicago has to offer.

“This fall we will enroll the most academically qualified and the most diverse freshman class in Northwestern’s history,” President Schapiro said.

The 33,688 applications received for the strongest academic class in Northwestern’s history set a new record, with applications rising for the 11th consecutive year. Ninety-one percent of the freshmen represent the top decile of their high school classes, and 249 National Merit Scholars make up 12 percent of the incoming class.

Twenty-three percent of the class is African-American and Latino, a new record for Northwestern. The class also includes 73 graduates of Chicago Public Schools, 182 international students from 55 countries, and 75 valedictorians of their high school class.

“Too many people assume, incorrectly, that pursuing academic excellence means somehow sacrificing diversity socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic,” said Michael Mills, associate provost for University enrollment. “The Class of 2018 proves them wrong in a very powerful way."

Northwestern applications continue to increase each year, rising by more than 10,000 since 2007, when the University admitted 27 percent of all applicants. For nine consecutive years, early decision applications also have been on the rise, with an almost 15 percent increase in early applications this year.

Most importantly, the talented, multidimensional freshmen represented by those one-dimensional statistics will have a chance to pursue multiple interests in a University that goes to great lengths to provide highly diverse opportunities both inside and outside the classroom.

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For additional coverage of Wildcat Welcome 2014, including tips for new students and advice for families, please visit the University's Wildcat Welcome news page.

For more stories from this month's Alumni News, visit the NAA on Our Northwestern, the University's online community.