Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


FAU sees a record-high 46,000 first-year applicants, raising questions about university’s success

Following the FAU men’s basketball team’s 2023 Final Four run at the NCAA March Madness playoffs, the school has experienced a spike in applications. However, many argue that this climb is driven not only by sports success.
Erika Fletcher
Kenneth R. Williams Administration Building

Earlier this month, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) staff released a statement regarding the number of applications for the incoming class of 2029, revealing that the university had a 27% overall increase in applications for incoming first-year students since last year. 

This significant increase in applications continues FAU’s rise in popularity, as the school has received national recognition in a multitude of ways in the past year, especially through its rise in the world of men’s basketball.

In 2023, the FAU men’s basketball team participated in the NCAA’s March Madness Final Four competition in Texas against San Diego State University. The team competed in March Madness again this year but lost to Northwestern in their first round. Afterward, Head coach Dusty May departed for the University of Michigan in March.

Maura Flaschner, executive director of Undergraduate Admissions, counts the school’s athletic triumph among the chief factors that have increased the institution’s visibility.

“Success on the court and on the field contributes to the national exposure that FAU is getting for high-quality academic programs, national rankings in social mobility, and career outcomes. All of these recognitions put together are making sure Florida Atlantic is no longer a well-kept secret – and the interest is growing,” she wrote in an email to the UP.

This is not the first time athletic achievement is thought to be the culprit of a college’s sparking success. In 1984, Doug Flutie, a then-quarterback for Boston College’s football team, drove the school’s team to success, leading to a shocking 30% rise in applications to Boston College in the following two years. 

Flutie’s contribution to the team has also been recognized as the Flutie effect. Research from Doug Chung, a marketing professor at the University of Texas at Austin, shows that when a college sports team experiences success, the average application rates for that school rise by over 17%.

Ed Devine, director of External Constituent Engagement at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, also believes that sports success could have led to this application spike.

“Sports can have a huge impact. If a school wins a national championship or participates in some of the big sports competitions, it will experience a bump in application numbers,” he said.

Matt Brown, the founder of Extra Points, an online newsletter that covers the business and internal framework of college sports, shares that although the school’s success in sports over the past two years may have played a role in this year’s climb in applications, it probably won’t contribute to a sustained trend in applications in future years.

“Although FAU’s success could allow for a short-term jump in media awareness, applications and selectivity, the research does not support that a handful of Cinderella runs for the school’s men’s basketball team will change their success in the long run, especially in terms of application rates,” he said. 

Both Devine and Brown suggested that this surge in applications could be due to an increase in population in Florida as well as FAU’s recent marketing boom. Flashner believes that through FAU’s rise in the media has contributed to the school’s visibility.

“Increased marketing, a rise in national rankings, sports conference alignment with stronger TV markets, and increased retention and graduation rates all play a role in stronger awareness of the high-quality education students will receive,” Flashner, at FAU wrote in an email.

FAU’s marketing efforts can be seen through billboards and other advertisements, such as the school’s New York City Times Square takeover during March Madness last year. Various advertisements have also been found in airports around the U.S., demonstrating the school’s rise in visibility.

According to Jeanne Krier, Director of Publicity at the Princeton Review, an organization that helps high school students get into their dream colleges through SAT and ACT prep, FAU has received various nationally recognized accolades in the past year.

“FAU is on our ‘Best in the South’ regional best colleges list that we reported in August 2022 and #24 on our ‘Top Undergraduate Schools for Entrepreneurship Studies’ list we reported in November 2023,” she said.

Flashner believes that FAU’s presence on the Common App has contributed to the school’s growth in application rates. This online program  allows students to apply to up to 20 schools at once, and gives students access to over 1,000 colleges.

“We joined Common Application in 2020 and as expected, we did see an increase in applications that year and have each year after that,” said Flashner. “Approximately 84% of the freshman applications come from the Common Application.” 

Devine says population growth in Palm Beach County could be contributing to the school’s increased numbers, with the county experiencing a 2.6% population growth from 2020-2023. 

He believes population growth and high school graduation rates can also have an effect on application rates to a university. 

“I think that population growth can have a huge factor in an application boom; I would also look at high school graduation rates, which are on a national decline, but places of growth include popular parts of Florida, so that could be a factor too,” he said.

Gabriela Quintero is a staff writer for the University Press. For more information regarding this story or others, contact her at [email protected]


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Erika Fletcher
Erika Fletcher, Lead Photographer
Erika is a senior majoring in multimedia studies with a minor in photography. She loves shooting sports and street photography and in her free time, she enjoys drawing, skateboarding, playing soccer, listening to music, and being with her friends and family. She joined the UP on a whim to make new friends and to get better at photography. In her time here, while not long, she's made connections and learned so much about herself already and can't wait to continue her journey with such great people.

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    Dr. Katie LundinMay 7, 2024 at 8:22 pm

    Amazing! But let’s also recognize that FAU currently has the most involved, aware, and productive President and its university history. Cheers to Dr. Stacy Volnick!! Great job.