Admission Numbers Solid After Shaky Start

November 7, 2002

Mark Miester

The events of Sept. 11 impacted virtually every facet of life and every area of work. Undergraduate admission at Tulane was no exception. The terrorist attacks took place at the onset of the fall recruiting season. The subsequent disruption in travel severely cut the number of students visiting campus.

"If you don't get them to visit, your chances of enrolling them are pretty small," says Richard Whiteside, vice president for enrollment management and dean of undergraduate admission. "I think there were a lot of kids we didn't lock in because they didn't come to visit."

Despite those handicaps, this year's freshman class was up in both size and quality. The registrar's office enrolled 1,548 freshmen for the fall 2002 semester, a 1.38 percent increase over last year and just two students shy of undergraduate admission's target enrollment of 1,550.

"As far as we're concerned, we got our target," Whiteside says. The average SAT for regular admits was 1327, up from 1326 last year.

The overall SAT was 1303, matching last year's figure. It was another big year for applications. Nearly 13,000 students applied to Tulane in 2002, a 19.6 percent increase over 2001 (which was itself a 38.9 percent increase over 2000). The jump in applications enabled Whiteside's office to accept a greater number of students7,310, a 10.4 percent increase over last yearand at the same time lower the university's acceptance rate. The university's acceptance rate was 56 percent this year, down from 61 percent last year. Whiteside attributes this year's success to good marketing.

Last year, undergraduate admission mailed out 35,000 applications pre-printed with students' personal information to make completing the application that much easier. This year, admission sent out 55,000 pre-printed applications to the top students expressing interest in Tulane. More than half the students who expressed interest in Tulane received application. Undergraduate admission also modified its recruitment activities. In the spring, the office initiated a series of "Tulane Comes to You" admission receptions.

"Instead of having one admission person at a reception in our 12 key cities, we took 12 people to each of those cities," Whiteside explains. "We took faculty, student affairs representatives, the freshman programs rep and others." Also, the admission office distributed a DVD with the university video and a "sights and sounds of New Orleans" segment. "I think all that stuff contributed," Whiteside says.

According to Whiteside, this year's success was all the more remarkable given a national decline in the number of college-bound high school graduates. "The freshman class that came in this year was projected to be smaller than the freshman class that came in last year," Whiteside says. "There are more kids graduating from high school but fewer of them are going on to college, primarily because of finances."

One area Whiteside would like to see improve is yield, the percentage of accepted students who choose to enroll. This year's yield was 21 percent, down from 23 percent last year.

"That's not good," Whiteside says. "The better and better kids any institution admits, the lower and lower yield it can expect because those are the students that have more choices. As we're getting more and more selective, we're running into a population of kids that can go virtually anywhere they want."

Whiteside says he'd like to reach a yield of 30 percent. "That's going to be a multiple-year effort," he adds. "If we can go a percent and a half up next year and each year for the next four or five years, I'd be real satisfied."

Mark Miester may be reached at

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