As a senior in high school, I applied to six schools: Syracuse University, University of Maryland, University of Miami, Georgetown University, University of Pittsburgh and Duke University. In my humble opinion, these are great universities. What do these six universities have in common? They’ve been relatively under the radar in terms of scandal.
We often talk about scandals, but we rarely talk about their repercussions. How do scandals impact acceptance rates and application rates among students?
A student’s perspective
The college application process is stressful, time consuming and daunting. How do you expect an 18-year-old boy to decide what to do with his life? You don’t! You let him choose the university and hope it works out for the best.
An article by the Detroit Free Press interviewed Chloe English. Sixteen-year-old English said the Nassar scandal has not impacted her decision to apply for Michigan State. She claims the scandal should not define the school especially since the university already has a great reputation.
Penn State, Four Years After the Scandal by Alexandra Hogan
However, this example does not mean there is no correlation between scandals and application rates. Previous scandals have proved disadvantageous for universities. Following the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Penn State University saw a nine percent decrease in application rates. While the university believed this decrease was a result of demographic trends and economic trends, others believed this decline was a result of the scandal. In a study by Michael Luca, Patrick Rooney and Jonathan Smith of Harvard Business School, results showed that a scandal in long form news article causes up to a ten percent drop in applications the following year.
Contrasting perspectives from current prospective students at Michigan State and previous prospective students at Penn State prove that the student perspective is individualized. Students most likely already have their minds set when applying to schools and scandal may not necessarily change this mindset.
A parent’s perspective
Even if a school can convince the students to apply, the university has an even bigger beast to tackle: the parents. Parents play an influential role in the college decision process. Reflecting on my experience, I would not have chosen Syracuse without my opinionated mother’s seal of approval. So, universities must convince the parents.
Wytrice Harris, mother of a prospective student, is still encouraging her daughter to apply to Michigan State. In her eyes, now is the safest time to apply because the school is being heavily watched by both the NCAA and the FBI. How often does lightening strike in the same place?
Photo taken by Chao during Hobart college visit
However, parents have concerns, and these concerns are valid. Mary Chao, a mother of a prospective student, is concerned for her daughter’s safety. She brings up a valid concern for her daughter, sexual assault. Unfortunately, sexual assault on college campus is rampant. As Chao discussed universities and scandal, she used an example of an assault that occurred at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Three years later, Chao visited the campus herself. Her reasoning? The university confronted the allegations head on. The former president was remorseful and took action to learn from previous mistakes.
This example demonstrates how schools should act following a scandal in order to maintain application rates. Though they may fall initially as seen with Penn State University, schools can recover quickly.
The Bottom Line
Perception is everything. The way a school portrays itself following a scandal will impact its application rates. Eventually, Penn State University application rates rebounded. Therefore, it serves as an opportunity for schools to rebrand themselves. Perhaps schools can create a boisterous social media campaign. This rebranding campaign can be the right hook to many jabs as described by Gary Vaynerchuk.
Evidently, recovering from a scandal is on a case by case basis. Schools must keep certain publics in mind specifically prospective students and their parents in order to maintain their reputation and their application rates following a scandal.
If not, they will feel the impact.