More students than ever are applying to Rowan University, a trend school officials say will help fuel aggressive expansion plans that include doubling enrollment in 10 years.

As of Wednesday, the day when Rowan administrators run their application and admissions numbers, the university had received 12,074 freshman applications, a 23.6 percent increase from the 9,763 applications it received at the same time last year. This year, Rowan has accepted 6,412 students so far, an acceptance rate of 53.1 percent.

The number of transfer applications increased 4.8 percent, to 2,265. Of those, 1,393 were accepted.

"I think it's just the positive buzz created about the university throughout the region — all the big, exciting things that are happening here, word is getting out and people are interested," said Al Betts, Rowan's admissions director. "People are happy with what they see, and students they know are having a good experience."

The university received applicants from 43 states this year, the widest geographic range it has ever seen, up from 36 states last year. And 152 international students applied this year, up from last year's 112.

Increased online marketing likely helped fuel the spike in applications, Betts said.

"There's no rhyme nor reason to the [states] that we have gotten them from," he said of the applications. "There's no place that's become a hotbed for it."

Rowan was one of several universities last year that announced a new test-optional policy for certain students. An additional essay is required in place of submitting standardized test scores.

This year, 210 students completed test-optional applications. Of them, 168 were accepted. That 80 percent acceptance rate was higher than the general rate, but that can reflect multiple factors, including that test-optional eligibility requires a 3.5 GPA.

In fact, in addition to the 210 eligible students who applied, 178 students sent in test-optional applications who did not qualify. For those 20 percent of students who were eligible, applied, and were rejected, there were a number of reasons, Betts said, including having a 3.5 GPA but a weak academic portfolio.

And then there were those students who didn't seem to have read the application requirements.

"More often than not, it was the test-optional essay," Betts said.

Applicants were asked to examine how their strengths and weaknesses as a student will affect their long-term life goals.

"You'd be surprised the number that … just didn't pay attention to what the essay was asking, and just gave us an essay about the greatest day of their life," he said.