Just under 34 percent of the 2,865 students admitted to Rice University in 2015 have enrolled in the class of 2019, according to Vice President for Enrollment Chris Munoz. 

“We’re really selecting on a national level, the best from the best,” Munoz said. “So you can’t even imagine what that must be like for Harvard or Stanford. We’re in that world of the students who apply to Rice.” 

Munoz said the wide range of nationalities, races, languages and extracurricular interests among the matriculating class shows that Rice students do not fit a specific stereotype. As an example, he pointed to the fact that 44 percent of the matriculating class were involved with varsity athletics in high school.

“When you think of Rice in terms of image, they always think our students are a bunch of geeks,” Munoz said. “And they may be, but that doesn’t mean they can’t throw a football. … Our geeks are diverse, they have other things they bring to the table.”

According to Munoz, an important characteristic of Rice students is their flexibility.

“Our students often are agile,” Munoz said. “We’re not [the California Institute of Technology], this is not Caltech. Our students often may be outstanding in terms of their quantitative skills, but they can maybe write a novel.”

Munoz said all segments of Rice’s student population are academically accomplished, comparing science and engineering students to those in other academic schools.

“There is no place, in my opinion, at Rice that you could hide anyone,” Munoz said. “The nature of our curriculum, the quality of the students who enroll at Rice, even our humanities and social science students often have academic qualifications that are commensurate with our science and engineering people. As a general rule, their test scores may be a tad lower, but not much, and I think that goes along with the kind of curriculum we offer.”

According to Munoz, negative perceptions of Houston and Texas in other parts of the United States pose a challenge to Rice by reducing the number of students who apply and enroll.

“[National perceptions of Houston and Texas are] still a stereotype issue we deal with,” Munoz said. “And sometimes when our representatives say provocative things that don’t make any sense it doesn’t help us. When our governor said we were going to secede from the United States, we’re going, oh please, don’t do that. Don’t say that, it’s so stupid.”

Stanford University and the University of Texas, Austin have been Rice’s most significant competitors for prospective students, according to Munoz.

However, Munoz said that admission trends are positive for Rice, with test scores, admission rate and other measures of the caliber of new students becoming increasingly selective in recent years.

“If I were a Rice student, I’d be happy,” Munoz said. “Remember that every class we bring in that’s better than your class, on paper, only increases the value of your degree. It’s like Stanford. There are people who got degrees from Stanford, X years ago, and they have benefitted from its current position. It’s like, ‘Every Stanford graduate is starting a company in Silicon Valley. I read that.’ That’s the buzz, the marketing buzz.”