Smart marketing… Drexel cuts application level by +40%

Drexel University decides 47,477 apps are too many

I can’t quite remember when it started but once upon a time colleges and universities were first offered the opportunity to send “fast app” application forms to high school students who had not applied for admission. The apps were pretty much completely filled out in advance. About all you had to do was click and send to the school you received it from. No application fee was required.

As a way to boost the size of an application pool the “fast app” was a singular success. 
Some schools, it is said, just used the technique to boost application numbers and become more selective. Conversion percents almost always were much lower than for people who completed applications themselves. But if a school didn’t care as much about conversions as the appearance of high demand and lower acceptance rates then conversion percent was not a problem. And some schools indeed used the extra apps to raise enrollment as Drexel once did.
Now comes recent news that Drexel University has decided to drop out of this system. You can get the details at “Drexel’s freshmen applicants plunge – happily.” Adopting the “fast app” in the 2005-06 recruitment cycle contributed to a 300 percent application increase. Even with a lower conversion rate overall freshmen enrollment also grew. But now goals have changed.
According to Randall Deike, new senior VP for enrollment management and student success, Drexel will now place more emphasis on the proverbial “better fit” to boost retention rates. That, of course, will help maintain or grow total enrollment. And Drexel has a wee bit of extra money by saving the cost of the “fast app” program.
20,052 Fewer Applications
For the freshman class that entered in 2014 Drexel had 47,477 applications… 2,925 were enrolled from that number. For the freshman class that will enroll in 2015 Drexel has 27,425 applications, or a drop of well over 40 percent. 
Reducing the applicant total is one part of a new strategy that includes adding back an application fee, using different admissions criteria for different academic programs, and shifting more financial resources to need-based aid.
A Smart Marketing Move?
Will Drexel be able to maintain the same freshman class size in 2015 as in 2014? 
We’ll find out later this year. Right now some people understandably are nervous. But I’d bet that with more attention to a reduced applicant pool with a higher percent of genuinely interested people, Drexel will do just fine.
In 2011 the NY Times reported in “A College Opts Out of the Admissions Arms Race” that Ursinus College had made a similar change: dropping the fast app to reduce applications. Today, Ursinus reports that freshmen class size has increased. Very different schools indeed but one small encouragement for folks at Drexel.
That’s all for now.

Subscribe to “Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter” for monthly marketing news and notes and weekly Link of the Week selections.
Join 6,800+ people and follow me on Twitter
“Improving Your Strategic Recruitment Communications Plan”
Join us at this Academic Impressions conference June 1-3. Review the program details and register here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *