Understanding the behaviors of stealth applicants in the college search process

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University of Alabama Libraries

Successful enrollment management uses predictive modeling to achieve specific goals for admission rates, yield rates, and class size. Many of these models rely on evaluating an applicant's interest in the institution through measures of pre-application engagement. Recent increases in the number of applicants who do not visibly interact with universities prior to submitting an application complicates existing predictive models. These students, whose applications for admission mark their first recorded contact with the university, are commonly called stealth applicants. In 2010, stealth applicants represented 30% of college applications (Noel-Levitz, 2010), yet little research addresses the ways that stealth applicants search for colleges. This qualitative case study includes interviews with students who were stealth applicants at a private, selective, mid-sized university in the southwest United States. A consumer behavior framework of the search process illustrates the use of traditional search methods by stealth applicants in college search. These students exhibited high levels of stress and fear about college, and skepticism and mistrust of university marketing materials. Technology facilitates stealth applicant's anonymous search for information and their quest for third party authentication of marketing messages. Recommendations for practice address technology, modern search methods, and the role of parents in the college decision process.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Higher education