Record Numbers of Regular Decision Applicants

A week ago, Dartmouth College published stunning application stats. Despite recent scandals and a lot of bad press, the College received a record number of regular decision applications for the Class of 2023: 23,641. This, a whopping 7.3 percent increase over last year when 22,005 students applied for the for the Class of 2022. 

Sophisticated marketing efforts promote increased numbers of college applicants, again

To what does Dartmouth attribute this success? Lee Coffin, vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid, ascribes the boon to improved marketing and recruitment. “The admissions website and social media platforms we introduced last winter have also been very effective,” says Coffin. And just how much recruitment did Dartmouth engage in? According to a Dartmouth press release, admissions officers visited close to 1,500 high schools across the U.S. and in over 50 countries.

That’s a lot of boots on the ground. But if you are wondering if Dartmouth’s hard-core marketing and recruitment strategy is unique, wonder no more. As parents and high schoolers have witnessed, during the last decade, colleges have created and continue to revise dynamic marketing platforms that connect with students in increasingly sophisticated ways. In fact, given their access to increasingly sophisticated data, colleges and universities are now able to court prospective applicants year-round.


The targeted marketing of potential applicants by colleges begins the day students register for the PSAT, SAT, and the ACT. As part of the registration process, students are asked a series of questions about their grades, family income, interests, intended major, and the type of colleges they might prefer. The data points gleaned from these apparently incidental questions are then sold by the College Board and the American College Testing Program along with the students’ names and contact information to colleges. While the College Board is reluctant to specify the number of names sold each year, according to a New York Times report in 2010, as of 2010, the College Board sold 80 million names to about 1200 colleges. Many admission deans contend the number is much higher.

No matter how you feel about these more sophisticated marketing campaigns, there is no doubt that they are highly successful and have a strong contributive effect on the record number of applications seen year after year.

What does this mean for college applicants and their families? Simply this: Beware of all the marketing hype coming your way. When you’re combing your way through the onslaught of daily mail from colleges, remember that the marketer’s job is not to admit you; instead, the marketer’s job is to get you to apply.

Want help strategizing the college admissions process? Call me. I’m always ready to help you

Dr. Osborn works with students from all over the world to help them reach their independent, college, and graduate school goals. Through a personal, one-on-one approach, Dr. Osborn creates an individualized plan for each student based on the student’s strengths, passions, and career aspirations. Her holistic approach helps students perform well in school and secure admission to top colleges.  

About The Author

Susan Osborn, Ph.D., has spent 30 years in higher education, in admissions at Vassar College, in the English department and Writing Program at Rutgers University, in the lab at The New Jersey Center for Research on Writing, and as a private tutor. Dr. Osborn is also an award-winning writer and scholar and she brings both her education smarts and her writing smarts to every student relationship.