A Wave of Applications

October 1, 2001

Mark Miester
Phone: 865-5714

In most years, the final enrollment figure is the index by which the recruiting cycle is judged. Not this year. It's the number of applicants that has Dick Whiteside and the Office of Undergraduate Admission excited. The 2001 freshman class was assembled from a field of more than 10,000 applications, a 31 percent increase over last year's applications and the largest pool in university history.

"Clearly what stands out about the class is that it comes from the largest applicant pool we've ever had," says Whiteside, vice president for enrollment management and institutional research. "It's also the best class we've ever had in terms of the standardized predictors like rank in class and SATs, so all in all we had a really good year and a really great class."

The 2001 incoming class comprises 1,527 students, down 4 percent from last year but in line with undergraduate admissions target enrollment of 1,525. The average SAT of the class is 1326, up 2.4 percent from last year. Of enrolled students, 65 percent finished in the top 10 percent of their high school class and 85 percent finished in the top quarter of their class. The enrollees are among the top 5 percent of the national college-bound population.

The leap in applications, Whiteside says, is no accident, but the result of a new marketing strategy that sought to attract the best students to apply at Tulane. "About 35,000 high school seniors determined to be the best students in the pool were sent a preprinted application form that made applying to Tulane a much easier prospect. That really seems to have piqued their interest, so we ended up with a lot more applications early on from very good students."

Whiteside says Tulane is one of a handful of schools that send out preprinted applications. It still is fairly innovative and fairly new. The increase in applications enabled the university to be more selective in admitting students. While the number of students admitted increased over last year by more than 600, the increase in applications enabled the university's acceptance rate to drop to 61 percent, more than 10 percent lower than last year.

According to Whiteside, lowering the university's acceptance rate is part of an ongoing strategy aimed at increasing the quality of the university. It's part of a long-term strategy to continue to reduce the acceptance rate, increase the SATs, increase the number in the top 10 percent of class and increase the yield, says Whiteside. "We were essentially successful at doing all those except this year's yield, which is a problem. The better your student is in the accepted student pool, the lower your yield unless you're Harvard or Yale."

This year's yield, which refers to the percentage of students accepted who choose to enroll, was 23 percent, down from 26.5 percent last year, but Whiteside says the improvement in quality of the class more than makes up for the dip in yield.

Whiteside says his office plans to continue using the preprinted applications and other efforts to attract higher-quality students, but he's keeping an eye on the economy as well. While a downturn in the economy often leads to an increase in college enrollment, Whiteside says most of those students are non-traditional students.

"When the economy sours, high-cost independent institutions suffer on the enrollment side," Whiteside says. "I don't know what the stock market did today, but I hope it went up. As long it keeps going up between now and May, we'll be in good shape."

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000