New Form, Marketing Efforts Drive Rise

Applications Set New Record at Over 19,000

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

The number of applications for admission to next year's freshman class has passed 19,000, a new record for Boston College that eclipses the previous standard by about 14 percent.

The previous record of 16,680 was established in 1995. This year's figure also represents an increase of more than 19 percent over last year.

Enrollment administrators also report significant gains in applications from AHANA and international students, and major geographical areas outside New England.

Administrators say the University's decision to use a common application form this year helped fuel the growth in numbers. But they believe that, rather than a one-year spike, the 1998-99 application figures suggest the University has attained a new threshold of national visibility and, as a result, expanded interest from prospective students.

"The numbers not only indicate Boston College's national reputation as one of the pre-eminent institutions in the country," said Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculties David R. Burgess, "they provide further opportunity to increase the diversity, as well as the quality, of our student body. This is also an excellent sign that our commitment to academic excellence has been well-founded."

Undergraduate Admission Director John Mahoney Jr. (left) and Dean for Enrollment Management Robert Lay.
"What's exciting is that we've seen an increase in the quality of applicants, as well as the quantity," said Dean for Enrollment Management Robert Lay. "That's a key point. We are not going after more applications just to get more applications. Instead, we've improved our ability to do admissions outreach and people are putting us on their lists now because we are more accessible, more visible.

"BC is not the only institution to be experiencing this growth," Lay added, "but without the hard work by so many for so long here, we would not be achieving such success."

"I think we're seeing a cumulative effect," agreed Undergraduate Admission Director John Mahoney Jr., who noted that BC has strengthened its academic programs and faculty, and boosted financial aid. "So many things have been happening over the last several years at BC and in the country, and they're all converging now," Mahoney said. "Unquestionably, the University's drawing power has built up dramatically."

One gauge of BC's popularity, Lay and Mahoney note, is the number of applications from other regions of the country. This year has seen a 35 percent increase from California alone thus far, as well as similarly impressive gains in states like Michigan, Louisiana, Arizona, Georgia and Colorado.

In addition, Lay and Mahoney said, international applications are up 33 percent - a surprising figure, given that the University does not formally recruit overseas.

Yet another positive development is the 20 percent rise in AHANA applicants, including 10 percent among African-American students - the fifth straight year that number has increased, administrators pointed out.

The University's switch to a common application form, one used by over 200 private universities, has unquestionably contributed to the higher numbers, Lay and Mahoney say. Students can submit photocopies of the same application to several institutions, or file them electronically.

This innovation comes at a time when the national college-age student population, emboldened by a strong economy, is more mobile and willing to consider a range of opportunities, Lay and Mahoney said, especially in choice locations like Boston.

"However," Mahoney added, "these students don't just fall into your hands. If the institution does not do the work to attract them, they will not be interested in applying."

The University has done that work, Lay and Mahoney said. It has committed to investing $260 million in academic programs and resources, including financial aid, and places a strong emphasis on service and values. At the same time, they explain, BC has taken a more "hard-hitting, academic-oriented" approach in its marketing and publicity campaigns.

"The image Boston College has sought to project is one of academic excellence and concern for personal and spiritual growth," Lay said. "That appears to resonate with many college-age students."

Changes in admissions-related methods and practices, such as making more of an effort to contact quality students toward the end of their junior year, have been effective as well. The Admissions Office also has replaced campus interviews with opportunities for contact with undergraduates and faculty.

"We've found that one of the best ways to present Boston College is to let our undergraduates do the talking for us," Mahoney said.

Return to Jan. 21 menu

Return to Chronicle home page