Student Quality

Student Quality

SMU’s increasing student quality is a defining feature of its continuing rise as a great university. In 2011-12 SMU continued to draw top students through its investment in merit-based scholarships, as well as by offering numerous opportunities for study abroad and programs enabling undergraduates to conduct research and benefit from independent projects, among other initiatives. Through rising SAT scores, national fellowships, leadership and engagement in social issues, SMU students are demonstrating the University’s effectiveness in educating tomorrow’s leaders.

Scholarships support student quality

Adriana Martinez

Merit-based scholarships continued to play a crucial role in SMU’s increase in student quality, a key goal of the SMU Strategic Plan. President’s Scholar Adriana Martinez ’12 majored in political science, public policy, history and French and minored in human rights. She was the 2010-2012 Henry S. Miller Undergraduate Fellow in the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies and also served as the student representative to the SMU Board of Trustees.

SMU applications set record


SMU received a record number of applications to join the first-year class entering in fall 2011, reflecting the University’s growing reputation as well as enhanced national outreach initiatives. The 12,961 applications topped the record of 9,085 the previous year by more than 42 percent. Students from outside Texas accounted for 55.1 percent of new first-year students. Minority students represented 26.6 percent, a slight increase over the previous record of 26.3 percent in 2010. SMU also received a record 1,293 applications for transfer in fall 2011, a 42.4 percent increase over the previous high of 908 in 2010.

Student academic quality reflected in record SAT scores

Rising SAT Scores

The average SAT scores of first-year students entering in fall 2011 set a new record, as SMU continued to advance toward an overall average SAT goal of 1300. The average score of 1269 represented a 26-point rise over the previous year and an increase of 102 points in the last decade. At the same time as SAT scores have increased, SMU has continued to attract a student body that features greater ethnic, geographic and socio-economic diversity.

Student body profile

Student Body Profile

A total of 10,982 students were enrolled in fall 2011, including 6,221 undergraduate students and 4,761 graduate students. Approximately 50 percent came from Texas, with the remainder from all 50 states and 90 foreign countries. Minority students constituted 25.6 percent of the overall student population.

Student recruitment supported by merit-based scholarships


Merit-based scholarships offered by the University as well as scholarships that target specific interests and are offered by schools continued to support SMU’s successful initiative to recruit top students in 2011-12. Forty-six incoming students received full tuition President’s Scholarships, while 27 first-year students received Hunt Leadership Scholarships. Schools’ merit-based scholarship programs – Cox BBA Scholars in Cox School of Business, Meadows Scholars in Meadows School of the Arts, Dedman College Scholars in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, and in its inaugural year, Lyle Scholars in Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering – provided support for high-achieving students who expressed advance interest in the schools’ major programs.

Undergraduate research enhances learning

Undergraduate Research

SMU provides undergraduates with unique opportunities to engage in hands-on research outside the classroom. During 2011-12, undergraduates participated in a range of research initiatives:

  • Nine interdisciplinary teams received grants to conduct research on significant Dallas issues through the Provost Office’s Big iDeas program. They investigated issues including students’ perceptions of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education; cultural offerings for lower income families in West Dallas; and ways to meet the health needs of Dallas’ international refugee community.
  • Through the Undergraduate Research Assistantship program, students worked under the close guidance of faculty members on research projects in disciplines including anthropology, engineering and physics. They learned skills and gained experiences that are more typical for graduate school, with opportunities to present findings at professional meetings and to publish work in journals.
  • The Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility awarded summer stipends to students to devote time to public service and research in the field of ethics. Their projects included evaluating the impact of economic development planning in West and South Dallas.
  • Students pursued projects in politics and government as research fellows for the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies. They partnered with faculty members to develop research in areas such as national security and immigration.
  • The Jack and Jane Hamilton Undergraduate Research Scholars Program in Dedman College enabled undergraduate students to work closely with faculty members on important research projects in fields including biological sciences, chemistry, earth sciences and statistics.
  • Students in the Meadows School conducted independent research with the support of Meadows Exploration Awards. Their projects included an exploration of international relations through theatre.
  • Richter Research Fellowships, awarded to students in the University Honors Program, supported independent research internationally and at SMU-in-Taos. Students traveled to countries such as Pakistan to chart young war refugees’ health; and India, to track water contamination.