Admission to Florida Gulf Coast University won't be a slam-dunk much longer.
University President Wilson Bradshaw says surging academic prestige and the success of the school's basketball program resulted in a surge of applications from incoming freshmen.
That translates into a 35.4 percent year-over-year increase and, as the News-Press of Fort Myers reports, an opportunity for school officials to be more selective in screening prospective students.
"Our visibility in basketball certainly didn't hurt," Bradshaw said of the team making it to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament in March. "We have to acknowledge that."
One Sunday during the tournament, the school tracked 177,093 unique visitors to its website. Thousands of those visited the admissions page.
Bradshaw says much of the growth in applications comes from students the university might not otherwise heavily recruit, including those from north Florida and from out of state. Florida Gulf Coast established itself as southwest Florida's premiere regional university and has gradually expanded.
"It gives us the opportunity for a more broadly representative student body," Bradshaw said.
Last year, there were 2,773 students in the freshman class and officials are expecting a 2014 freshman class of around 3,000 students. In 2008, there were 1,882 new freshmen. The school's total enrollment is currently 14,251. That's almost two-thirds of the one-time projected enrollment of 22,000.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the university admitted 68 percent of applicants for the Fall 2012 session. But the rate is declining with a larger applicant pool.
"Some people with better GPAs than me might not get in," said Megan Everett, 19, of Fort Lauderdale, who earned a 3.0 GPA in high school.
Sophomore Greg Hayes from Winter Haven agrees. He earned a 4.2 GPA in high school and chose Florida Gulf Coast because of the scholarship package it assembled.
"With more people coming, they need to have more money for scholarships," he noted.