The Flutie Factor

Trends that change the classifications and popularity of colleges

You need to be aware of trends or events that make schools more popular in a brief period of time (often 1 year). There are often instances where a schools appearance in a football bowl game or the NCAA basketball tournament gives the school unprecedented exposure and puts it on “the map” so to speak. This can cause a spike in applications the following year and what you thought was a safety school now might become a target school or reach school due to the increased number of applications you have to compete with. Florida St has seen a steady increase in application over the last 12 years and the increase is largely attributed to the increased success and exposure on a national level that their football team has brought them.

In 1984, Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie completed a miracle 60 yard touchdown pass with no time left on the clock in a nationally televised game to propel his team to victory over the national powerhouse Miami Hurricanes, providing Boston College with instant national exposure and recognition. The pass culminated a Heisman Trophy season from a 5’9” quarterback who was only recruited by one Division 1 College coming out of high school. The pass also sent a shockwave throughout the college admissions process which can still be felt today as underdog teams compete and win on the national stage.

The 25% increase in applications to Boston College the following year was deemed, “The Flutie Factor.” While the increase of applications based on athletic performances can be debated and is often rebuffed, it’s really up to you to analyze and determine what school will fit you best and you need to be aware of the exposure that different schools receive at different times. Many of the larger Division 1 schools spend millions of dollars on their football and basketball programs knowing full well the amount of exposure it provides them. The better these teams do, the more popular their school becomes, the more applications they hope to receive.

There are also instances where schools enjoy increased success by winning awards or ranking high on national lists of schools, whether it is by value or by strength of their academic programs. Perhaps they were ranked in the top 5 business schools when the year before they were 30th and now they need to deal with the increased exposure they are going to receive. There are other instances where trends in society influence applications. Schools with computer programs saw an increase in applications in the late 1990’s as more students became involved in the “Internet Age” and sought out services to prepare them for new careers in programming, web development, database management, & computer graphics.

In order to ensure that you gain acceptance to a number of schools, it’s important to apply to a wide range of schools that are reach, target, & safety schools. It is also important to understand the individual application process for each school by having an understanding of how many applications you will be competing with and what your odds are.

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