More colleges and universities are experimenting with a new admissions strategy to increase enrollment and increase student diversity. It’s called direct admission, a process in which colleges make offers of admission to students—often with financial assistance—without first having to go through a lengthy admissions process.
It’s often described as a reverse system, something like receiving notification of a pre-approved mortgage. Here are the basics. A student first creates and posts a profile that includes information such as grades, test scores, location, interests, and other college-related information. Participating colleges then evaluate these individual profiles and expand admissions offerings without students having to go through the hassle of obtaining letters of recommendation, writing an essay, and completing application forms.
A company called Concourse, founded a few years ago and acquired by EAB in 2022, was an early entry into this market. It has created an online platform where students can submit their profiles, which will be certified by the student advisor, a teacher or school principal. Universities are then presented with anonymized versions of the profiles that meet their criteria, and they decide whether to proactively make offers of admission and financial support to prospects who meet their criteria.
It costs $75 to create a profile, but this fee can be waived based on student needs. Colleges participating in Concourse also waive their application fees. Concourse claims that its student attendees receive an average of 5.8 admission offers. In the event of acceptance, the students are not obliged to accept the offer.
According to that Wall Street Journal, Concourse launched its Greenlight Match program last year as a pilot with 10 colleges focused on low-income and first-generation students in Chicago. It now has more than 70 domestic affiliates, including Auburn University and Southern Methodist University.
Overall, Concourse has about 125 colleges that offer direct admission, according to Joe Morrison, its CEO. “And there are many more in the onboarding pipeline that’s growing fast,” he said.
Idaho was one of the first states to introduce a direct college admissions program and introduced it in 2015. Initial evaluations show that it resulted in an increase in first-time undergraduate enrollment by more than 8% and in state undergraduate enrollment by nearly 12%. .
Now other companies and states are getting into the direct registration business. For example, since 2021, the Common Application (Common App) has been running a Direct Admissions program, offering admission to students who create a Common App account and provide enough academic information, but have not yet completed all open applications.
In the latest version of the pilot, six participating colleges offered admission to 18,000 students; over 800 students accepted the offer. The impact of the pilot was greatest for black or African American, Hispanic, and first-generation students, according to Common App.
This November, Common App launched a third round of its direct-entry pilot with 14 participating colleges reaching nearly 30,000 students with direct-entry offers.
In the fall of 2022, SAGE Scholars launched its FastTrak program to match highly qualified students with colleges and universities that best meet their needs before applying. By uploading key information to their student portal, including transcript, GPA, and activities, students are considered for direct admission to dozens of FastTrak colleges.
Niche started a direct admissions project with 13 institutions in 2022. And in the state of Minnesota, over 50 colleges and universities participate in the state’s version of a direct admission program, including a wide variety of community, technical, tribal, public and private institutions. A full list of participating colleges and universities can be found here.
Although direct admissions started primarily at colleges, which accept the majority of their applicants, schools that are more selective in their admissions policies are beginning to take notice and enroll. Participating institutions in the 2022-23 Common App pilot were: University of Augsburg, Austin Peay State University, Frostburg State University, George Mason University, Iona University, Kean University, Marymount University, Mercy College, Montclair State University, New Jersey City University, Stockton University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Utica University, Virginia Commonwealth University.
How much will direct admission change the application landscape for universities? Is it a game changer or a flash in the pan? Will it increase enrollment numbers? Does it offer a possible workaround to achieve student diversity should the Supreme Court decide, as many experts are predicting, to end race-sensitive admissions? Do students enrolled through direct admission perform as well in college as those enrolled through the normal application process?
These are all questions that still need to be finally answered. While no one expects Harvard, Stanford, or Yale to start offering direct admissions, the strategy is clearly on the rise and could provide a growing number of colleges with an effective alternative to address their enrollment problems.