CSU once again top of the class on Free App Day

Heather Daniels
Heather Daniels, director of admissions.

For the third consecutive year, more Colorado high school students applied to Colorado State University on Free Application Day than any other college or university in the state.

In fact, at a time when COVID-related concerns have led to painful enrollment drops around the country, CSU experienced a 13% increase in applications over October 2019 – before the pandemic hit. In all, the Colorado Department of Higher Education revealed an increase of more than 10,000 applications across the state during the annual event on Oct. 13. Free App Day gives students the opportunity to apply to as many Colorado schools as they want, free of charge.

CSU received  a total of  10,346 applications on Free App Day, an increase of 13% over last year’s one-day total. Of this year’s applications, 9,960 came from first-time freshman students.

“What excites me is that, despite all of the uncertainty and challenges around COVID-19, students in Colorado are still thinking about college for next year,” said Heather Daniels, director of admissions at CSU. “Many of them still aren’t in their schools, they’re not meeting with their counselors and they’re not seeing the posters from various colleges in their schools, and yet students are still excited about college. They’re applying in huge numbers, which is really gratifying.”

Successful strategies

Daniels had high praise for her staff, which capitalized on virtual strategies to work with students during the frenzied 24-hour application extravaganza. Admissions experts helped ensure that CSU was at the top of online searches, which led to a dramatic increase in traffic on the university’s website leading up to Free App Day.

CDHE logo horizontalDaniels said her staff even participated in their version of “midnight madness” the night before, helping students prepare their applications so they could be submitted as soon as Free App Day began. It was all hands on deck from there, with staff directing prospective students to chat rooms to meet with counselors throughout the day.

“We staffed the chat rooms right up to midnight on the 14th,” she said. “I had two students online with me until 12:05 a.m. and I finally told them they had to hit ‘submit’ on the application because time was up. It was a lot of work but also very rewarding.”

Statewide impact on higher education

The University of Colorado once again finished second to CSU with 9,055 applications, followed by the University of Northern Colorado (5,861), University of Colorado-Colorado Springs (5,484) and Metropolitan State University of Denver (4,837).

Daniels said the challenge now is getting the applications processed and qualified students admitted for the 2021-22 academic year. Freshman enrollment dropped about 12% this year due to COVID-19, and she’s hoping things can return to pre-pandemic levels. In the meantime, she’s thankful for the impact of Free App Day.

“The last few weeks we were behind in overall applications, and especially in Colorado applications,” she said. “These results show that Free App Day works and that current high school seniors are excited about going to college in Colorado.”