In our last issue of The Maguire Network, we asked readers about the actions being taken at their institutions to address the phenomenon of “stealth applicants,” students whose first communication with a college or university is an admissions application. As shown in Figure 1, the majority of respondents to our poll said that their schools do not actively track and adjust admission practices to account for stealth applicants.
Although a substantial proportion of respondents indicate their institutions are trying to systematically address the stealth applicant market, it is surprising that the percentage is not higher. Indeed, in Maguire Associates' 2008 national survey of senior level admissions and enrollment officials, conducted in partnership with The Chronicle of Higher Education, we found that more than three-quarters of respondents (77.2%) work at institutions where the volume of undergraduate stealth applicants has increased “somewhat” or “greatly” during the past ten years (see Figure 2).
We expect that stealth applicant volume will continue to rise (or at least hold steady) at many institutions as college and university websites continue to expand as a primary source of information. As a result, institutions will need to make a concerted effort to address the needs of stealth applicants or risk declining enrollment. And institutions that can make a more compelling case for the value of submitting inquiry information will hold a competitive recruitment advantage over those that do not.