It’s getting harder and harder to get into Villanova University, and the Wildcats’ success on the basketball court is at least part of the reason, university leaders say.

In 2016, when Villanova won the NCAA men’s basketball championship, the university admitted just over 43% of its applicants.

With applications soaring since then — something that typically happens after NCAA championships, and the Wildcats have won two in the last six years — the school’s selectivity has changed dramatically.

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Villanova accepted 23% of its 23,813 applicants this year. The average student at Villanova has more than a 4.0 GPA weighted average from their high school and SATs of about 1450 on a 1600 scale, said Patrick G. Maggitti, Villanova provost.

“It’s a constant theme among our alums,” he said. “They say I could never get into Villanova now. Everybody at Villanova seems to be above average in some way, shape, or form.”

And competition could become even more keen if the Wildcats win their Final Four game on Saturday night and go on to another championship Monday.

The university’s yield rate — the percentage of admitted students who choose to enroll — also has increased, from 22.3% in 2016, to 28.7% last year.

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More has happened at Villanova — which enrolls 11,000 students, about 6,500 of them undergraduates — in the last six years than two basketball championships.

Villanova went from a regional university to a national university when the Carnegie Foundation elevated its classification to the doctoral research category from the master’s category. It’s now ranked among the top 50 national universities in the country by U.S. News and World Report. And in 2016, its business school ranked No. 1 in Bloomberg Business Week. It also remains one of the largest producers of Fulbright scholars in the United States — 97 since 2016 — and boasts of its job placement rate for graduates, this year at 98%, with an average starting salary of over $65,000.

But both Maggitti and the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, Villanova’s president, said the school’s basketball prowess no doubt helped, especially in terms of making the school better known to international students and those in far away states.

“The basketball team has helped to propel Villanova around the world,” said Donohue, in his 16th year as president. “They did get our name on the map.”

Villanova’s tuition, fees and room and board has increased from $58,245 in 2014-15 to $77,705 in 2022-23, while financial aid also increased substantially.

Studies have shown that national basketball championships can bring in more applications, higher-quality students, more donations, and boost corporate sponsorships, licensing, and athletic ticket sales. Schools get about a two-year boost from a win, Kristi Dosh, a sports business analyst based in Florida, who has studied the effects of national championships, has said.

A 2009 study by economists Devin and Jaren Pope found that success on the court increases applications from 2% to 8% for the top 16 basketball schools, and those increases are two to four times greater for private schools than public ones.

After Villanova’s 2016 championship, which also came the same year of the business school ranking and classification as a national university, applications shot up 23%, Maggitti said, though they didn’t change much at all after the 2018 win. Before 2016, applications had been rising between 3% to 6% a year.

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Applications for this fall’s incoming class showed a small dip, but there’s no telling what another basketball championship this month might mean.

Success in the NCAA tournament brings countless publicity opportunities, Villanova has found. In 2016, from March 17 to April 7, the school’s website, Villanova.edu, recorded 1.9 million visits, up more than 1 million from the same period in 2015.

The school received nearly 50,000 media mentions or citations from the start of March Madness that year through the championship game and parade. Villanova found itself on the front page of nearly 200 newspapers, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and The Inquirer. It also made the cover of Sports Illustrated.

The university estimates the publicity value of the 2016 championship run at about $250 million. If the in-game broadcast is included, the value would exceed $1 billion, said Jonathan Gust, a spokesperson.

Numbers were comparable for the 2018 championship, Gust said.

“When they say that is press you can’t buy, I can assure you we could not buy that,” Maggitti said.

Fund-raising also has been on the upswing, Villanova officials say, most recently with a $20 million gift from an alumnus for a library upgrade. Earlier this year, the school started a 150,000-square-foot addition to the engineering college.

Within the next couple years, the university expects to launch a fund-raising campaign in excess of $1 billion, Maggitti said. The university already has raised $350 million in the so-called quiet phase.

Villanova also has upgraded its athletic facilities in recent years, including a major renovation of its on-campus basketball arena.

Academic prowess extends to Villanova’s athletes. More than 500 Villanova students compete on its 24 sports teams, earning an overall GPA of 3.395, Maggitti said. The basketball team’s overall GPA also is over 3.0.

“Win or lose, they’re a great group of young men,” Donohue said of the basketball team. ”I’m very proud of them.

What will happen this weekend on the court remains to be seen. But one national contest already has been decided. Inside Higher Education, an online publication, matched up the academic progress of players on each of the NCAA teams.

No. 1? Villanova.