An increasing number of colleges and universities are piloting a new admissions strategy to boost enrollment and increase student diversity. It’s called direct admissions, and it’s a process in which colleges make offers of admissions—often with financial assistance—to students without requiring them to go through a lengthy admissions process first.
It’s often described as a flipped system, like receiving notice of a pre-approved mortgage. Here are the basics. A student first creates and posts a profile, including information such as grades, test scores, location, interests, and other college-related information. Participating colleges then assess those individual profiles and extend offers of admission without requiring students to go through the hassle of obtaining letters of recommendation, writing an essay, and filling out application forms.
An early entrant into this market was a company called Concourse, which was founded a few years ago and later acquired by EAB in 2022. I have created an online platform for students to submit their profiles, which have been approved by the student advisor, teacher or principal. Universities who match their criteria are then presented with anonymous copies of profiles, and they decide whether to make proactive offers of admission and financial assistance to potential clients who meet their criteria.
It costs $75 to create a profile, but this fee can be waived based on the need of the student. Colleges participating in the Concourse also waive application fees. Concourse claims that participating students receive an average of 5.8 offers of acceptance. If accepted, students are under no obligation to accept the offer.
According to the Wall Street JournalAnd the Concourse started its Greenlight Match program last year as a pilot with 10 colleges focused on low-income, first-generation students in Chicago. It now has more than 70 partners on the domestic front, including Auburn University and Southern Methodist University.
Overall, Concourse has about 125 colleges offering direct admissions, according to Joe Morrison, its CEO. “And there’s a lot more in the internal pipeline, which is growing rapidly,” he said.
Idaho was one of the first states to offer a direct college admissions program, rolling out in 2015. Initial evaluations show that it has resulted in an increase in first-time college enrollment of over 8% and in-state student enrollment of nearly 12%.
Now other companies and countries are jumping into the direct admission business. For example, the Common App has been piloting a direct admissions program since 2021, offering admissions to students who have created a Common App account and provided sufficient academic information but have not yet completed all of their open applications.
In the latest version of the pilot, six participating colleges offered to accept 18,000 students; More than 800 students accepted the show. The pilot’s impact was strongest for Black or African American, Latinx, and first-generation students, according to the Common App.
In November, Common App launched a third round of its direct admissions pilot program, with 14 colleges participating, reaching nearly 30,000 students with direct admissions offers.
In the fall of 2022, SAGE Scholars launched its FastTrak program to match highly qualified students with colleges and universities that fit their needs before applying. By uploading key pieces of information to their student portal, including transcript, GPA, and activities, students are considered for direct admission to dozens of FastTrak colleges.
Niche has started the direct admission project in 2022 with 13 institutions. And in Minnesota, more than 50 colleges and universities participate in that state’s version of the direct admissions program, including a full range of community, technical, tribal, public, and private institutions. A full list of participating colleges and universities can be found here.
Although direct admissions have mostly started at colleges that accept the majority of applicants, schools that are more selective in their admissions policies are starting to take notice and enroll. In the 2022-23 joint pilot program, the participating institutions 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, University of Utica, Virginia Commonwealth University.
How will direct admissions change the college application landscape? Is it a game changer or a flash in the fryer? Will it boost enrollment numbers? Does it offer a potential solution to achieving student diversity when, as many experts predict, the Supreme Court should decide to end race-informed admission? Are students enrolled through direct admissions doing as well in college as those accepted through the normal application process?
These are all questions that have not been definitively answered. While no one expects Harvard, Stanford, or Yale to begin offering direct admissions, the strategy is clearly afoot and may offer a growing group of colleges an effective alternative to meet their enrollment challenges.