Appendix K



Admissions Processes



This report is submitted to the Senate to provide an overview of the Undergraduate Admissions Process and to address the fluctuation in enrollment.

Undergraduate enrollment management (EM) is an extremely difficult task because of attempting to predict the behavior of 17 year-old high school students. This becomes even more complicated within a complex institution. EM is not only about the correct number, but also about the correct “mix” of students that best fulfills the institution’s mission. One can think of it as a huge puzzle where a single goal for overall enrollment becomes multiple goals for undergraduates, residents, nonresidents, first-year students, transfer students, students of color, academic quality, retention and graduation rates, and any number of other student subgroups depending on an institution’s unique circumstances.


The Undergraduate Admissions Office strives to bring in a highly qualified cohort of students every year. The process begins much earlier than the senior year for both the Undergraduate Admissions Office (UAO) and for a high school student. For example, a student may have previously visited Penn State or attended a camp on campus wherein UAO has already established a prospect record. Alternatively, UAO:

  • purchases approximately 350,000 prospect contacts from College Board and ACT of students who have taken these exams, and subsequently loads these into the customer relationship management (CRM) tool (CampusNexus).
  • has established relationships with hundreds of high schools and counselors around the country through routine visits by UAO staff or alumni in the respective area.
  • delivers information sessions and walking tours of campus to more than 55,000 visitors annually.
  • hosts the Spend A Summer Day program for approximately 4,000 students and 10,000 family members.
  • hosts approximately 250 high school counselors for campus visits, including public, prep, charter schools.
  • has an admissions office in Philadelphia and in Pittsburgh.
  • has full-time regional recruiters on the ground in NJ, NYC, and DC.
  • has alumni around the country (two in NJ, one in NYC, one in MA, one in Los Angeles, two in Chicago, one in Houston) that are paid hourly wages to attend on UAO’s behalf. This number will increase by three in the current academic year by adding one alum in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and San Diego.
  • travels to 20-25 international countries with other peer institutions.
  • partners with Global Programs to recruit internationally.

The application for admission becomes live on September 1 each season. In the current year, Penn State will have its traditional home grown application, and will have an alternative application in the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success. This Coalition Application is a new initiative to make it easier for students who are already applying to peer institutions to complete their application to Penn State.

October 18, 2016 Agenda, Appendix J, Image 1

Why did Penn State join the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success Slide:

The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success is grounded in some fundamental values and beliefs:

  • Students come first and the platform provides a supportive college exploration and application process that encourages reflection and self-discovery;
  • Early engagement supports under-resourced students during the college preparation process;
  • Individual efforts to promote access can be significantly enhanced through the efforts of the Coalition and this free tool to schools and community-based organizations;
  • The college admission process needs ongoing innovation and improvement and that competition is a positive force for change;
  • PSU can leverage technology to level the playing field in college preparation.

Penn State has a priority consideration deadline of November 30. Applications that are submitted in their entirety (the application, test scores, and a high school transcript) will have the best chance of admission to their first choice campus and/or major. These students will receive an admissions decision no later than January 31.

October 18, 2016 Agenda, Appendix J, Image 2

Undergraduate Applications for Admission 2006-2016 Slide:

Bar chart showing the annual number of Undergraduate Applications for Admission from Fall 2006 to Fall 2016 with the lowest number in 2006 being 61,103 and the highest number being 87,859 in 2015, with the second highest number, albeit slightly lower, in 2016 of 86,403 (data as of August 27, 2016).

First Year (FY) enrollment targets are set annually in October or November by the Central Enrollment Management Group (CEMG). Participating in this group in 2015-2016 were the following:

  • Nicholas P. Jones, Executive Vice President and Provost
  • Robert N. Pangborn, Vice President and Dean of Undergraduate Education
  • Madlyn L. Hanes, Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses
  • Damon Sims, Vice President for Student Affairs
  • Marcus Whitehurst, Vice Provost for Educational Equity
  • Regina Vasilatos-Younken, VP Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate School
  • Lance Kennedy-Phillips, Vice Provost Planning and Assessment
  • Rachel E. Smith, University Budget Officer
  • Lori Stania, Director Graduate Student Services
  • James A. Strauss, Chair Faculty Senate
  • Clark V. Brigger, Executive Director for Undergraduate Admissions
  • Rachel E. Smith, University Budget Officer
  • Anna M. Griswold, Asst. VP and Executive Director for Student Aid
  • Martha H. Jordan, Director of Admissions Services for World Campus
  • Jody M. Heckman, Budget Director and Special Asst. to EVP and Provost
  • Robert A. Kubat, University Registrar
  • Heather Hottle Robbins, Public Relations Specialist
  • Rebecca Cianci, Administrative Fellow to VP for Human Resources
  • Madhavi Kari, Administrative Fellow to VP for Student Affairs
  • Binh P. Le, Administrative Fellow to EVP and Provost

The University uses predictive modeling in an attempt to maintain the student population at University Park (UP) at approximately 46,000 including continuing students at University Park, change of campus, transfer, graduate, non-degree, and new first-year students. The entering class first-year number is a combined summer and fall number. Summer accounts for approximately 2,100 incoming students and serves to relieve pressure on fall courses while better utilizing campus infrastructure.

The UAO starts admitting the highest caliber applicants in late October via rolling admissions. After evaluating all of the applicants that have applied by the November 30 priority filing deadline, the UAO sets the admissions criteria for the November pool of applicants in mid-January. After the November pool is admitted, the UAO completes a similar exercise for the December pool of applicants, and so on. The high school grade-point average (GPA) accounts for approximately two-thirds of the admission decision. The remaining one-third is based on other factors, including: standardized test scores, the personal statement, and activities list. Class rank is also considered for students with honors or Advanced Placement courses whose schools do not supply a weighted GPA. The optional personal statement and activity list are sometimes considered for students whose applications require additional review. The UAO attempts to bring in a class of approximately 800 business, 800 international, 3,000 STEM, and 3,000 non-science students.

There are some majors that are populated by direct admission. Eight of these are talent based in the College of Arts and Architecture, some of which require an audition; one is in the College of Health and Human Development (PGA Golf Management); another is pre-med medical in the Eberly College of Science; and one is the bachelor of science in nursing in the College of Nursing.

Finally, the Faculty Senate allows for approximately 350 Reserved Spaces which are administered by the UAO. These spaces are for students that can only be accommodated at University Park, such as, Division I athletes, Blue Band, ROTC, talent-based programs, or for academic review committee appeals.

The UAO holds Admitted Student Programs (ASPs) throughout the Spring Semester at UP with the colleges, at the campuses, and out-of-state to encourage students to pay their deposits by the national acceptance deadline of May 1 each year.

In a typical year, the UAO receives approximately 68,000 baccalaureate applications, with 53,000 applying to University Park, and 15,000 applying directly to the Commonwealth Campuses (CWC) as their first choice. In 2016, the breakdown was as follows (data as of August 27, 2016):

October 18, 2016 Agenda, Appendix J, Image 32016 First-Year Baccalaureate Application Flow Slide:

A table showing the application flow of numbers of First-Year Baccalaureate Undergraduate Applications for Admission for Summer and Fall 2016 and the respective yield (the number of those that paid a deposit indicating their intent to enroll divided by the number of admitted students).

October 18, 2016 Agenda, Appendix J, Image 4

2016 First-Year Baccalaureate Residency Composition Slide:

A table showing the residency composition of First-Year Baccalaureate students for Summer and Fall 2016 which displays that the Commonwealth Campuses have a larger proportion of residents than either UP or the World Campus (data as of August 27, 2016).

Penn State’s largest out-of-state enrollment comes from the following states in rank order:

  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Maryland
  • Virginia
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Massachusetts
  • Texas
  • Illinois

The largest international enrollment comes from the following countries in rank order:

  • China
  • India
  • Republic of South Korea
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Taiwan
  • Canada
  • Turkey
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Thailand
  • Venezuela

Penn State has completed its fourth year of the Provost Award with excellent results. The Provost Award is a $4,000 renewable scholarship for four years. It has components that address merit, need, and diversity. All CWC Provost Award recipients at the 14 University College campuses also received a $3,000 Chancellor Award, renewable for a second year, until the funds ran out. Some results of the awardees are detailed below:

  • Awardees attained a higher average GPA by 0.1 to 0.2
  • Awardees retention is higher by 1 to 3 percent at UP, and 2 to 6 percent at CWCs

Discussion and Conclusion

During the last fiscal year’s prolonged period without a state budget and uncertainty regarding the University’s state appropriation, and given the smaller entering class in 2015, Penn State’s enrollment management leadership decided it would be prudent to err on the higher side of the target rather than to risk enrolling two smaller classes in a row. Additionally, the transition to a new student information system presented many challenges related to admitting and enrolling students. The nuances of configuring the system for such a complex university made full testing of the admissions module before it went live very difficult. As a result, some caches of applicants became temporarily hidden and parts of some students’ application packages, such as standardized test scores and high school transcripts, did not load properly. Once identified, many of these students were determined to be qualified for the November and December applicant pools and in the interest of fairness were provided decisions according to their respective pool dates. These aggregated groups represent approximately 550 additional students at University Park for the combined Summer and Fall 2016 enrollment.

Responding to the larger than anticipated entering class required a combination of flexibility, creativity and adaptability. Some examples:

  • Housing delayed renovation of a residence hall until at least the spring to make additional beds available on campus;
  • Colleges and departments added class sections to accommodate students in the introductory and foundational courses;
  • The Provost provided funds to offer scholarships to 300 students originally admitted to University Park for the fall who took advantage of a 1+3 program, starting at a Commonwealth Campus with the option to transition to UP after the first year.

Below is a graph detailing the past eleven years of first-year baccalaureate enrollment:

October 18, 2016 Agenda, Appendix J, Image 5


2016 Baccalaureate First-Year Enrollment Slide:

A graph displaying the fluctuation of baccalaureate first-year enrollment at UP, at the campuses and in totality across the past 11 years. Total first-year baccalaureate enrollment in 2006 was 16,125; dropped to a low of 14,936 in 2007; and attained a new high of 16,734 in 2016 (data as of August 27, 2016).


  • Charles Abdalla
  • Steven Andelin
  • Martha Aynardi
  • Daniel Beaver
  • Clark Brigger
  • Wei-Fan Chen
  • Madhuri Desai
  • Maura Ellsworth
  • Galen Grimes
  • Anna Griswold
  • Michel M. Haigh, Chair
  • Harold Hayford, Vice Chair
  • Robert Kubat
  • Themis Matsoukas
  • George Samuel
  • Douglas Wolfe

*Prepared by the Undergraduate Admissions Office