Virginia Tech has welcomed new and returning students to campus for the start of 2021-22 academic year, planning for a fully in-person college experience this fall after the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in 15 months of closures and remote instruction.

A snapshot of the incoming class of first-year and transfer students reveals academic talent and the most diverse group of new Hokies ever. The data, as of Aug. 17, 2021, indicated that in its sesquicentennial year, the university has edged closer to achieving enrollment goals outlined in its strategic plan, The Virginia Tech Difference: Advancing Beyond Boundaries.  

Comprehensive strategies to grow underrepresented minority and underserved (URM/USS) populations helped increase the number of incoming URM/USS students to 39.3 percent. Virginia Tech has set a strategic goal of achieving 40 percent of underrepresented minority and underserved populations by 2022. The snapshot shows that 20 percent of the incoming class is first generation. Just under 17 percent can receive federal Pell Grants.

The incoming class is Virginia Tech’s most racially diverse, posting historic highs for African Americans (8.7 percent) when combining African American (6.8 percent) and two or more races that indicate African American (1.9 percent). Hispanic/Latino students represent 10.5 percent of the incoming class. This amounts to a 93 percent increase in African Americans and a 64 percent increase in Hispanic/Latinos compared to the class of freshmen and transfers that arrived in 2017, the year before changes in admission began at Virginia Tech.

“We continued building on the successes of 2020, and the result is an incoming undergraduate class for 2021 that moves Virginia Tech closer to its strategic goals of improving access, particularly for underrepresented and underserved populations,” said Luisa Havens Gerardo, vice provost for enrollment management. “A diverse student body with robust student academic profiles facilitates creativity and innovation and allows for a rich on campus experience for all.”

Despite challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia Tech attracted a record 42,103 freshman applications during the 2021 admissions cycle – a 36 percent increase over the previous cycle and a testament to the university’s strong academic reputation and continued efforts to expand its reach. Overall, first-year African American applications rose 68 percent compared to 2020. First-year applications from Hispanic students were up 42 percent. 

Transfer applications increased 4.8 percent to 3,080, in part to Virginia Tech’s effort to recruit students in Virginia’s community college system through the Hokie Corner program. Hokie Corner connects admissions and academic advising staff with prospective transfer students to help guide them through the transfer process. 

The combined grade point average (GPA) for incoming first-year students rose slightly to 3.98, up from 3.97 in 2020. The college GPA for incoming transfer students was 3.55, up from 3.49 in 2020. Research indicates that a student's GPA is a much better predictor of college success than SAT scores. Virginia Tech adopted a test-optional policy for the entering class of 2021 and has expanded that policy to the entering class of 2022.

The 6,918 students in this first-year class represent 47 different states and 51 different countries. The 981-member transfer class represents 21 different states and 20 different countries.

“Many students in the incoming class applied to Virginia Tech and accepted offers of admission having not set foot on campus,” said Juan Espinoza, associate vice provost for enrollment management and director of admissions. “It speaks to the reputation and strength of our exceptional programs and the various virtual recruitment initiatives and programming conducted by the admissions team.”  

In-person tours were suspended in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and did not resume until June 1, 2021.   

“The admissions team developed engaging and meaningful ways to guide applicants and their families through the processes, and we are very happy with the results,” added Espinoza.

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