FGCU’s memorable March translates into huge spike in undergrad applications

Jeff Eisenberg

By toppling Georgetown and San Diego State in the NCAA tournament last March, Florida Gulf Coast accomplished more than merely becoming the first No. 15 seed to advance to a Sweet 16.

The Eagles also shined a spotlight on their school to future undergraduate applicants who might not have known of its existence previously.

Freshman applications at FGCU have increased 35.4 percent over last year's totals, the Fort Meyers News-Press reported Wednesday. The surge in applications will enable the school to both increase its enrollment and be more selective about who it accepts, which should gradually increase FGCU's academic prestige.

An increase in undergraduate applications at FGCU is no surprise given the impact of past Cinderella NCAA tournament runs.

Studies commissioned by Butler after its 2010 and 2011 runs to the national title game found the school received a combined publicity value of nearly $1 billion thanks to TV, print and online news. Butler reported a 41 percent rise in admissions applications and a 35 percent rise in visits in the year after its first national title game appearance. From VCU, to Norfolk State, to George Mason, other schools enjoyed similar spikes.

FGCU was uniquely positioned to take advantage of its publicity because of the unusual amount of attention its picturesque campus received last March. Stories often mentioned that its dorms overlook a beach on a lake, that its students study while laying out in the sand and that anything from wakeboarding, to canoeing, to tubing are free to students.

Not surprisingly, that appealed to potential future students, both in Florida and from cold-weather states. Now FGCU has more applicants than ever before.