For the second time in the past three years, Villanova University has won the ultimate prize in men’s college basketball, the NCAA Division I National Championship. Villanova is a great school, quite popular with students in Central New Jersey. So I decided to take a look at admissions data posted by the university to see how much a national championship might matter for this year’s cycle as well as next year’s.
Unlike a college football season, the meat of a college basketball schedule, the conference games, is played after New Year’s Day. By then most college bound high school seniors have already submitted their applications. By the date of the Final Four, around the end of March and beginning of April, college admissions offices have likely sent all of their decisions. Winning a national championship in college basketball, if it matters to applicants, should have some impact on a college’s yield rate, the percentage of accepted students who decided to come, as well as the number of students who apply to be in the next year’s freshman class.
In the fall of 2016 after winning the national championship:
During the next admissions cycle after winning the national championship:
It is fair to state that Villanova became a more selective school after it won the national championship. However, the university had to admit more applicants off the wait list than it did the year before. Had the admissions office accepted no one off the wait list, the yield rate would have been 22 percent.
There’s no way for me to know how many of the late admits decided to enroll at Villanova. But its fair for me to state that the yield rate among the accepted students went down from the year before; the admissions office had to rely much more on a larger wait list to fill their class.
Winning a national championship might have attracted more high school seniors, at least those who are college basketball fans, to apply to Villanova. It is also possible that the university attracted more applicants who were academically qualified to come, since the wait list grew by 800 from the year before. But it did not entice more of them to enroll.
Ask any admissions director if s/he would be happy with a yield rate between 20 and 23 percent, and s/he will say no. When the yield rate is that low, a national championship in April might not have motivated too many to deposit by May 1st.
Villanova had a very successful men’s basketball program in the two years prior to winning the title. In 2014-15, the Wildcats went 33-3, winning a conference title, but they lost to North Carolina State in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Tournament. The team went 29-5 the year before that, also winning their conference title, and also losing in the Elite 8.
Given the low yield rates over these four cycles, changes were in order for Villanova admissions for the current cycle, and they happened.
Villanova was more selective in this current cycle, admitting only 29 percent of the students who applied to join the Class of 2022. Just over 22,700 students applied. But this time fewer than 6,600 were offered admission.
The university also admitted about a quarter of the class, which would be just over 400 students, through Early Decision, a practice not previously used by their admissions office. Those students who committed to Villanova through Early Decision did so before the NCAA Tournament. Its doubtful that a national championship in men’s basketball influenced their decision.
I would expect Villanova’s yield rate to approach 30 percent for the accepted students, and the wait list to dwindle down dramatically, possibly close to zero. Hopefully, the title chase will also led to more deposits at Villanova by the first of next month. I have no way to know. A decision to deposit depends on many things, including costs. Villanova has not been one of the more generous schools when it comes to filling financial need. On average the university met only 75 percent of need for the student body, unimpressive for a school that will have direct charges in excess of $67,000 next year. Only 104 students in the current freshman class received merit scholarships; on average these cover less than a third of the tuition.
And a word of caution to bright college basketball fans who might be considering Villanova: most of the team that you saw on the court this season will not be there for the next. Not only will Jalen Brunson, the National College Player of the Year, graduate and move on the NBA; junior shooting guard/small forward Mikal Bridges and sophomore guard (and tournament MVP) Donte DeVincenzo may also be leaving school to join him.
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