Hauling clothes, computers, bedding and decorations, the incoming class of Franklin College students transitioned into what would be their new homes.

More than 300 students and their families descended on campus Thursday. They came from nearby Franklin and Greenwood. Others traveled from as far away as Texas and Arizona.

The start of a new school year creates an electric atmosphere. For students, it’s the start of an exciting new phase in their lives, full of independence and new learning opportunities.

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But for the school’s administration, and particularly the admissions staff, it offers a chance to see how changes in the way students are recruited can lead to more successful college careers.

Relying on a data-driven approach and looking into new areas to spread the Franklin College name, admissions officials have brought in a diverse class with wide-ranging talents, interests and accomplishments, said Kate Coffman, vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid.

“Our goal was to recruit more of the students who do well at Franklin College — who academically engage, get involved on campus, pursue career passions and who contribute in the classroom,” she said. “We made an effort to recruit and attract students that we felt would be academically prepared to do well here, and we are really excited about the incoming class.”

The college saw a record number of applications to the school last year, with more than 2,400 people hoping to be accepted, Coffman said. The previous high was about 2,200.

Though the final numbers are still fluctuating as students begin arriving, Coffman expects the new class to be close to 315 people. That marks an increase from 2016, when 275 new students were admitted.

The size of the freshman class falls within the college’s goal of 300 to 320 new students.

“We don’t want to get too full, and not have housing for students. We think this is just the right number,” she said.

Finding the right mix of new students is a challenge for the school’s admissions staff, Coffman said. To do so, they rely heavily on statistics compiled on student success that stretches back 30 years.

Tim Garner, associate vice president for institutional analytics and special projects at the college, studied incoming students and tracked their performance. That data helped create models that can determine what students can be the most successful during their time at Franklin College.

This was the first year that the college had relied on that data so heavily, Coffman said.

“We made some decisions that were hard in some cases, and did not admit some students that we would have admitted in the past. But it resulted in getting students that we think will do well here,” she said.

Recruiting in Indiana remains a priority for Franklin College, Coffman said. But admissions officials have also expanded their scope.

“Any small college is looking at, ‘Who do we recruit?’ Because we can’t rely on our home state alone. If you look at the number of students graduating and the number of students intending to go to college, you’re just not going to survive,” she said.

By digging into data compiled by Garner as well as other sources, the admissions team at Franklin College has identified locations throughout the region that are turning out the types of students who they think can do well here, Coffman said.

Admissions officials have worked to distribute more information about the college in Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois and Tennessee. Students in this year’s class have come from 10 states, reaching into New York and Florida in addition to Midwestern areas.

“We’ll continue to do our Indiana recruitment like we always have. We have a strong relationship with Johnson County schools, but we’re doing a little more recruitment this year in other places,” Coffman said.

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Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.