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Applications to Furman see double-digit growth

Daisy Anderson ’27 celebrates during Furman Forward on April 21, 2023.

Last updated March 13, 2024

By Clinton Colmenares, Director of News and Media Strategy

Furman University’s popularity among high school students soared this year. More than 10,600 of them applied to be a Paladin, up 30 percent over 2023, far outpacing the national increase of 5 percent.

“As the Furman community does more and more great things out in the world, the world is taking notice. They want to be part of what we do here,” said Emily Schuck, vice president for Enrollment Management.

Applications are higher from in-state, out of state, around the country and around the world. The number of coveted early decision students, whose commitments in early January are binding, was up from 175 last year to 310; 102 were admitted and 101 have committed with a deposit. Early action applications rose from 4,827 last year to 6,118, and international applicants jumped from 1,604 to 2,402.

white woman in black blazer outdoors

Emily Schuck, vice president for Enrollment Management.

Schuck’s staff is now in the competitive “yield season.” Using modeling, experience and intuition, they’ll admit a certain number of applicants, knowing many will choose another school. Their work will yield a class that’s not only the right size — about 650, for an acceptance rate below 50 percent — but with the right mix of academic and personal interests and a rich variety of backgrounds.

Having more applicants “allows us to be more selective and craft the class that we think will have the greatest impact on our Furman community, and the community at large,” Schuck said.

Throughout the year, admissions counselors crisscross the country spreading the word about Furman to students and high school counselors, and they pay special attention to South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia, historically the home of many Furman students.

South Carolina, in particular, is expecting about a 7 percent growth in high school graduates in the next few years. That will make the state a “pocket of opportunity,” Schuck said. Other universities will step up their recruitment efforts here. “We have to be very intentional to make sure we’re not neglecting our back yard.”

The counselors also spend a lot of time recruiting students one-on-one, in person, by email or phone, even having coffee with a parent, helping students feel like Furman is the right fit, or not the right fit.

When Schuck came to Furman in June 2023, she saw an opportunity to recruit students more effectively using segmented messaging.

“Instead of telling a little bit about Furman to everyone, we need to tell specific Furman success stories and stories about opportunities and impact in a way that translates well to students. Whether that’s appealing to a student’s academic interest, a community interest or something else they’re passionate about,” Schuck said.

She worked with University Communications and came up with a plan for targeted advertising on social media and other outlets. One tactic tailored messages to where students are in the process. For example, high school juniors got messages about visiting campus or downloading the viewbook and seniors were encouraged to apply. The plan helped create awareness among students who might not know about Furman, planting seeds the Enrollment Management team will tend for years.

While there are always shifts in higher education — this year’s FAFSA delays, the pandemic, changes in student demographics — Schuck’s team is being proactive. “Instead of sitting back and waiting to see how we fit into a narrative, we’ve decided that we will be proactive and create the narrative with our strengths,” she said.

Fortunately, Furman has done the difficult task of determining what kind of university it wants to be, Schuck said. This is reflected in the university’s strengths, including the healthy dialogue initiative On Discourse and the Pathways Program, which provides two years of general mentoring and two years of focused mentoring within a student’s major, reflective writing starting in the first-year curriculum, and flexibility to meet students’ interests.

The deadline for high school students to make their college choices is May 1, but the FAFSA delay means universities, including Furman, might not know their complete incoming classes until August. But, Schuck said, the academic profile of this year’s applicants is higher than ever, and she’s confident they’ll bring in the most Furman of Furman classes yet. Until next year.

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Clinton Colmenares
Director of News and Media Strategy