Representing the smartest, largest-ever applicant pool in UCSB history, 23,100 students were extended the chance to become Gauchos next fall.

Of those, Director of Admissions Christine Van Gieson said UCSB has already received 626 freshmen Statements of Intent to Register for Fall 2008 as of April 2. The SIRs are not due until May 1.

Van Gieson said the caliber of student applications submitted to UCSB this year was exceptional, and she is interested in seeing who will eventually enroll for the upcoming year.

“The applicant pool this year was the best ever in terms of average grades and average test scores,” Van Gieson said. “The average GPA for applicants was 4.03, and the average SAT Reasoning was 1872. This is all really great news. We’re admitting all these great students – now the big question is, who will come here?”

Aside from receiving 47,025 freshman applications this year – the highest number in UCSB’s history – the school also saw a 31 percent leap in applications from underrepresented minorities since last year. Based on those numbers, the admissions office predicts that about 4,200 freshmen will actually enroll at this university, a decrease of about 100 incoming freshmen compared to 2007-08 freshmen enrollment.

UCSB also saw a record high of 8,846 transfer student applications this year, Van Gieson said, a 12.9 percent increase over last year.

According to Van Gieson, UC San Diego – which traditionally holds the distinction of the second-most desirable UC – was this year pushed into third place with 47,300 applications, behind UC Berkeley’s 48,000 applications. UC Los Angeles maintained its position as the most popular UC this year with approximately 55,000 freshman applications.

Van Gieson said this shift in the pecking order between the UCs, as well as the closing gap in the number of applications between San Diego, Berkeley, Santa Barbara and Davis, shows that prospective UC students’ interests are changing.

“This really shows a change in popularity and a gain in popularity for us,” Van Gieson said. “We are closing the distance between us and Berkeley and San Diego. One reason is that Santa Barbara is looking more like an attractive second choice to some other UC’s that are tougher to get into, like UCLA. But what it really comes down to is our faculty and students and staff getting the word out about what a terrific institution we are.”

Van Gieson said she attributes the marked increase in applications from underrepresented minorities this year to the campus’ growing reputation as a hospitable environment.

“I think we are making a lot of connections with various communities, and our faculty and administration are being seen as welcoming by more underrepresented minorities,” Van Gieson said. “The school is really getting an excellent reputation of being a very welcoming campus.”