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### Exploring the Impact of March Madness Success on College Application Numbers

Consider this: Would you be more inclined to apply to a university if it had advanced to the Final Four in March Madness, the renowned NCAA men’s basketball tournament?

If your response is affirmative, you share a common sentiment. Analysis of college application data spanning from 2017 to 2023 indicates a notable correlation between a strong March Madness performance and increased application rates.

This piece delves into the connection between application rates and school achievements in March Madness, shedding light on what these associations signify for prospective students eyeing top-tier institutions.

Key Points to Note

Numerous educational institutions witness a surge in applications following their involvement in the NCAA Tournament, as illustrated by the following data:

  • All cohorts participating in the 2021 March Madness observed year-over-year application rate escalations, ranging from 7% to over 11% post their engagement in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Following their victory in the NCAA Tournament in 2016, Villanova University encountered a 22.3% surge in applicants for the 2017–18 academic year.
  • While national college application rates declined by 1.29% between 2017 and 2020, Division I schools—the exclusive division represented in March Madness—experienced a 3.78% surge in applications during the same timeframe.
  • Amidst the 2021–22 and 2022–23 academic years, schools that reached the 2021 Elite Eight witnessed an average application rate surge of 8.3% subsequent to their participation in March Madness.
  • Year-over-year application rates for schools that made it to the 2021 Final Four and Finals increased by an average of 7.67% and 11.53%, respectively, post their involvement in March Madness.

March Madness 2023 Overview

March Madness 2023 captivated collegiate basketball enthusiasts with its unpredictable outcomes. The tournament deviated from tradition, notably with the University of Connecticut (UConn) and the University of Miami—both unranked in the AP Top 25 before the event—advancing to the Final Four.

Ultimately, UConn clinched the championship title in 2023, marking their first March Madness victory since 2014.

The 2023 tournament also made history as the first instance since the introduction of the seeding process in 1979 where the No. 1, 2, and 3 seeds failed to reach the Final Four. Smaller, lesser-known schools took the spotlight, exemplified by Furman University defeating the University of Virginia and Fairleigh Dickinson triumphing over Purdue University, a No. 1 seed.

NCAA Basketball Insights

The National Collegiate Athletic Association oversees college basketball in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico, categorizing participating schools into Division I, Division II, and Division III based on various criteria such as school size and competitiveness.

The NCAA’s annual men’s basketball tournament, known as March Madness due to its duration spanning March and part of April, features 68 teams, all hailing from Division I schools. While 32 teams secure their spots through victories, the remaining 36 are chosen by the NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee.

Through seven rounds of competition culminating in the Sweet 16 and Final Four, schools compete until one emerges victorious as the national champion.

To investigate the link between college application rates and March Madness, we analyzed application rates across all U.S. schools, Division I institutions, and schools represented in the NCAA’s Sweet 16 brackets from 2017 to 2021.

As depicted in the table below, national college application rates experienced marginal year-over-year declines in most years. Conversely, Division I schools witnessed an average uptick of 4.66% in applications during this period. Particularly in 2021, when national application rates surged, Division I schools recorded a more substantial increase.

It’s noteworthy that the nationwide surge in college applications between 2020 and 2021 was partly influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic and the rise of [ppp1].

March Madness Participants and Application Rates

Post the 2021 NCAA Tournament, the top two teams observed application spikes exceeding 11% between the 2021–22 academic year and the 2022–23 school year. Even schools like the University of Arkansas and Oregon State University, both ranking eighth, saw increases of 22.16% and 10.62%, respectively.

Impact of Tournament Victors on Application Rates

Certain schools witness a substantial surge in applications subsequent to securing victory in the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. For instance, following their March Madness triumph in 2016, Villanova University encountered a 22.3% surge in applications for the 2017–18 academic year.

Application Rate Variances by Tournament Rounds

Schools that progress further in the tournament typically experience more pronounced application rate increases.

For instance, schools reaching the Sweet Sixteen in 2021 noted an average year-over-year application rate surge of 7.27%, while those in the Elite Eight observed an average increase of 8.3% annually. However, finalists surpassed these figures, with an average application rate increase of 11.53%.

Overall data indicates that finalists and champions witness comparable year-over-year application growth. Between 2017 and 2021, NCAA Tournament champions garnered an average of 8.06% more applications than the preceding academic year. In comparison, finalists saw an average year-over-year application surge of 9.08%.

Importance of Increased Applications

A surge in applications equips a school with a broader candidate pool, enabling a more selective admission process. Highly selective schools often carry a prestigious reputation, potentially leading to elevated tuition rates and subsequent revenue growth.

While advantageous for institutions, this scenario may pose challenges for applicants. Prospective students eyeing highly selective schools might feel compelled to apply to multiple institutions to bolster their chances of acceptance. The process of preparing and submitting numerous college applications can be taxing and costly. Additionally, students may need to secure larger loans to offset heightened tuition expenses.

Final Thoughts

Merely participating in March Madness can serve as a powerful marketing tool for colleges and universities. Our findings indicate that schools in the Sweet 16 category tend to witness heightened application rates in the year following their March Madness appearance. Engaging in the tournament can enhance exposure and resources for schools with promising athletic programs, potentially amplifying their appeal to prospective students.

Emerging as the championship victor can substantially expand a school’s applicant pool, exemplified by Villanova University’s 22.3% application surge post their 2016 March Madness triumph. Even securing a runner-up position can drive application numbers, as evidenced by UNC Chapel Hill’s 13.65% increase in 2017, Texas Tech University’s 14.76% surge in 2020, and Gonzaga’s 11.68% rise in 2022.

FAQs About March Madness and College Applications

How are teams selected for March Madness?

The NCAA selection committee engages in a series of deliberations to determine the teams qualifying for March Madness. Utilizing the NCAA Evaluation Tool, committee members compile a tentative list of teams before subjecting it to further scrutiny through successive votes. The selection process is intricate and time-consuming.

Which school holds the record for the most March Madness titles?

The University of California, Los Angeles boasts the highest number of championship titles, with 11 victories.

How many teams receive invitations to participate in March Madness?

A total of 68 Division I teams are chosen to partake in March Madness.