The 333 members of the class of 2012 arrive at Westmont College this week for new-student orientation Thursday through Sunday. Parent orientation programs will be held Thursday and Friday. The first day of classes for all students is Monday.

The incoming class is one of the most talented academically, but also one of the most diverse. There are 111 students of color, a third of the freshman class.

“We are thrilled and excited to welcome this new group of students to Westmont as they begin their college journey,” says Joyce Luy, dean of admission. “We are confident each one brings with them new gifts and talents that will merge with our returning students and continue to make Westmont the exceptional college community we know it to be.”

Nine National Merit scholars have chosen to attend Westmont, bringing the total on campus to 19. More than 70 percent of first-year students earned academic merit scholarships ranging from $8,000 to $12,000. The average SAT (critical reading and math) score of the first-year students jumped 10 points to 1210.

Westmont also welcomes 72 transfer students, more than a third from out of state, including 10 international students. There are 35 first-year students from the Tri-County area.

Westmont has selected four Monroe Scholars, the seventh straight year it has honored top students with full-tuition scholarships. This year’s recipients have an average honors GPA of 4.41 and an average SAT (critical reading and math) score of 1550.

The Monroe scholars include Carrie Steingruber of Carrollton, Texas; Reyn Halford of Honolulu; Stacey Torigoe of Hilo, Hawaii; and Karly Noblitt of Thousand Oaks.

Halford is considering majoring in religious studies or something with a pre-med focus. He says it was Westmont’s unique combination of deep faith and rigorous academics that attracted him the most.

“Westmont is the only school that maintains the perfect balance of academics with a faithful pursuit of who Christ wants us to be,” Halford says. “Other Christian colleges are either lacking the whole-hearted commitment to the message of Christ or are lacking the rigor of academics.”

Scott Craig is Westmont College‘s media relations manager.