Apr 17, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Making it into the NCAA Final Four for men’s basketball is a big deal for players and fans, but it’s also a big deal for college admissions officers looking to increase enrollments. Here’s a closer look at recent intelligence by Forbes indicating just how much collegiate hoops success can impact applications.

Surging Application Numbers

Based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Forbes concluded that 75 percent of schools that made it into the Final Four saw above-average increases in applications during the subsequent admission cycle. Furthermore, basketball teams that made it into the Final Four in the years between 2009 and 2013 received 12.9 percent more applications during the following admissions season compared to an average overall increased of just 4.2 percent.

Additional research suggests that the trend held up across women’s basketball teams, as well.

Why It Matters

With college enrollments on the decline, more applicants can lead to fuller classes of the best and brightest students. Plus, says Forbes, “A greater number of applicants means one of two things. Either a school can admit more students and thus raise revenue, or it can drive down its admissions rate, a figure that can boost its rank on many college lists.”

But another factor is also in play: The underdog element. When Forbes looked at the numbers in 2014 and 2015, the general trend remained consistent with underdogs, in particular, coming out ahead. Final Four competitors who were seeded No. 5 or below saw the most significant average surges in applications at 11.9 percent. However, schools can’t expect to coast on underdog status forever. In other words, if a team continues to perform well after overcoming underdog status, the applicant surge eventually levels out.



Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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