Big Wins in Sports Brings More College Applicants


August 27, 2012

Colleges and universities having an excellent sports season can see more than just a boost in student morale -- college applications also tend to increase the following fall, a recent study revealed.

The findings showed that schools that secured the national championship title in football saw an increase of 11 percent in SAT score submissions (a proxy for applications), while those that triumphed in men's basketball also received 11 percent more SAT scores from students, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

For the study, economists and brothers, Jaren Pope of Brigham Young University, and Devin Pope of the University of Chicago, analyzed eight years of SAT data. While their previous research showed that college sports success draws more applications, this study aimed to learn more about the individuals influenced by a school's achievement in men's basketball and football.

Specific students -- out-of-state, male, African American and former high school basketball and football players -- were influenced by colleges with just moderate sports success. However, students of all demographics, and about equal numbers of males and females, became interested when a school made it to the championships.

"Certain subgroups do not pay as much attention to sports but are still affected by the most attention-grabbing victories," the researchers wrote as quoted by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The researchers pointed to BYU as a case in point, according Following its advance to the Sweet 16 in 2011 and the build in Jimmermania -- the athletic performance of BYU's basketball player Jimmer Fredette -- the school experienced an increase of more than five percent in applicants. The school's Admissions Office was hesitant, however, to attribute that to Jimmermania.

"There is already a certain type of student that is likely to come here," said Jaren Pope in "But there were probably some on the margin that were choosing between BYU and another school and decided 'Oh, wow, it's gonna be fun to be at BYU.'"

Big school wins tended to sway African Americans more than their peers of other races, the study showed. For instance, a school in the Final Four got a 13 percent increase in admissions from African Americans versus a 5.7 percent boost overall. Similarly, colleges that prevailed in national championships garnered an 18 percent rise in African Americans applicants. The researchers explained that some groups may be less informed about the college admissions process and therefore may rely on sports performance when deciding where to apply.

Of the individuals influenced by sports success, about two-thirds were lower achievers, scoring below average on the SAT, PsychCentral noted. However, even high-achievers could be affected by a team's success.

"There are some really high-quality students that seem to be affected by the sports success," Jaren Pope said.

However, other factors could be causing or contributing to the increase in college applications at these schools, The Chronicle of Higher Education pointed out.

Compiled by Doresa Banning


"How March Madness Affects Your Applicant Pool,", August 26, 2012, Eric Hoover

"March Madness Brings September Students,", August 23, 2012

"Success in Sports Aids Academic Recruiting,", August 24, 2012, Rick Nauert PhD

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