When Less Is More

October 23, 2004

Mark Miester
Phone: (504) 865-5714

The biggest news surrounding this year's admission class isn't the number of students who were admitted. It's the number of students who weren't accepted.

classFor the first time in university history, Tulane's freshman acceptance rate dropped below the 50 percent mark.

Of the 17,572 high school seniors who applied, the university accepted 7,862, a rate of 44.7 percent.

"It's like being a member of the Millionaire's Club--you're not phenomenally wealthy, but you're in pretty good company," says Richard Whiteside, dean of admission and vice president for enrollment management and institutional research.

"I think that's basically what you're looking at when you say you accept fewer than 50 percent of your applicants--it's not like you're the most selective university in the world, but you're in pretty good company."

But the 50-percent mark is of more than just symbolic value, Whiteside adds. "A fair number of the evaluation systems that are used to generate national rankings, like U.S. News, use the acceptance rate in their formula for determining admissions selectivity and then admissions selectivity is used in determining final rankings. In U.S. News & World Report, our admission selectivity rating is 40.

About five years ago, that number was 64. So we've improved by almost 50 percent." This year's freshman class came in at 1,613 students, 4.4 percent fewer than last year's class of 1,684 but in line with undergraduate admission's target of 1,600 students.

The average SAT, excluding University College, is 1344 and 64 percent finished in the top 10 percent of their graduating class. This year's yield, or the percentage of students offered admission who chose to enroll, was 20.5, a percentage point lower than last year.

According to Whiteside, the reasons students give when asked why they chose Tulane remain the same: location, academic programs and financial incentives. Lowering the acceptance rate was made easier thanks to a 25 percent increase in applications. Whiteside attributes the rise to Tulane's growing reputation, a national increase in the number of collegebound seniors and, not insignificantly, an aggressive outreach and recruiting strategy on the part of the Office of Undergraduate Admission.

"We now contact all of the students in our inquiry pool and give them the opportunity to apply online at a reduced application fee amount," he explains. "We contact more high school juniors than we ever did before. We are now in direct mail contact with 535,000 high school students." Whiteside says he expects next year's target enrollment to remain at 1,600 students. Early indications are that it will be another good year. "About 17,000 people attended our fall receptions," he says. "Our early activity levels look huge."

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