Lost applicants are those students who you have accepted during the application process, but have chosen not to enroll with you. Analyzing these applicants can provide valuable insight into what these students look like, which competitor institutions you are losing them to, and why.   The easiest way to perform this analysis is to integrate your applicant data with data from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC).   In addition to helping you to understand your competitor schools, you can use this analysis to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your recruiting efforts, your academic programs, and your financial aid strategies.

National Student Clearinghouse

The National Student Clearinghouse is an independent non-profit association founded by the higher education community in 1993. The NSC collects data from over 3,300 colleges and universities whose students represent 96% of the nation’s enrollment. Most higher education institutions are already working with the NSC. For those that are not, the data is fairly inexpensive and can be extremely valuable for tracking applicants, enrolled students, and graduates.

Outcomes and Deliverables of this analysis

Below is a small subset of reports and analytic output from this type of analysis:

  • The types of institutions preferred by lost applicants (2/4 year, public/private, in/out-of-state)
  • Department and/or major originally applied for, grouped by competitor college chosen
  • Top competitor schools by number of lost applicants who enrolled there
  • Profiles of your applicants by school chosen (average SAT scores, HS GPA, HS rank, etc…)

Sample Outputs:


Find out who your competitor schools are based on the number of your applicants who choose them instead of your school.


Find out how many of your lost applicants are choose to enroll at other schools in-state vs. other schools out-of state.


Show how many of your lost applicants are enrolling at public schools vs. private schools.


Show how many of your lost applicants are enrolling at in-state vs. out-of-state institutions.

Data Sources Needed

The two data sources you’ll need to conduct your analysis are:

  • Historical applicant data
  • National Student Clearinghouse data

Applicant Data Needed

For each applicant you’d like to track, you’ll need as many of the following fields as possible, along with any other relevant data you’d like to analyze:

  • Applicant ID (identifier field)
  • Applicant full name
  • Applicant date of birth
  • Status indicator (applied, admitted, enrolled, etc.)
  • Gender
  • HS GPA
  • SAT Math scores
  • SAT Verbal scores
  • ACT scores
  • State
  • County
  • HS Code
  • Ethnicity
  • FAFSA flag
  • Total loans offered
  • Total scholarships offered
  • Legacy indicator
  • Major and/or department applied for

How to Analyze This Data

After sending your data to the NSC, you will receive a file to be linked back to your dataset. For further instruction on how to prep the data to be sent to the NSC, and on how to link it back to your dataset, see Appendices A and B, respectively.

The easiest way to combine the two data files – the NSC file and your applicant file –using Rapid Insight software  is to pull them both into Veera Construct. Once in Veera Construct, merge the files on Applicant ID to create one large dataset containing all of the relevant fields from both files. Using the resulting analytic file, you can perform any number of analyses on your lost applicants.



For this analysis you will de-dupe by your student identifier, and you will choose to take the record with the minimum value for the ‘Enrollment Begin’ variable.  This will give you the record for the most recent term.

Analysis Examples

As an example, to identify which lost applicants are choosing competing two- or four-year institutions, apply an Aggregate node to the merged dataset. Within the aggregate, select the “2-year/4-year” variable as your “aggregate by” variable, and check the “Count Distinct” box that corresponds to your identifier variable. The result will tell you the total number of students who enrolled in competing 2-year institutions and 4-year institutions.  Similarly, just by selecting as different “aggregate by” field, this process can be repeated to get the total number of public vs. private and in-state vs. out-of-state students.


In addition to calculating the total number of students who fall into any of the above categories, you might want to get a better profile of what each group of students looks like. This can be accomplished by utilizing some of the other available variables in the Aggregate node.  For example, to calculate the average of any numeric entry (like HS GPA or SAT Math Score), check that variable’s corresponding “Mean” box.

You can also focus on the specific institutions you’re competing with and the types of students who are choosing those colleges. By ranking other colleges by the number of your applicants who chose that school, you can find your top competitor schools. Using CrossTab nodes, you can find the total number of students who chose competitor institutions by department or major.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What if a student is not found in the NSC data?If a student is not found in the NSC dataset, it is most likely for one of two reasons: one, the student enrolled in an institution that does not report its data to the NSC, or two, the student chose not to enroll anywhere during the specified search period.
  • Does StudentTracker comply with FERPA privacy regulations?

Yes. It is because of the NSC’s FERPA compliance that data can be shared safely and securely by the NSC and the institutions using it.

  • How much does it cost to use StudentTracker?

If your institution participates in DegreeVerify and EnrollmentVerify services, and reports a few additional data elements, StudentTracker is free. If your institution chooses to do just one of the above, the annual rate is 5¢ times overall school enrollment. Otherwise, the full rate of StudentTracker is an annual fee of 10¢ times overall school enrollment. *

*NSC pricing obtained at time of writing and is subject to change.

Appendix A

How to Prep Your Data for the NSC

The NSC requires a very specific file format when receiving submissions of applicant data.  Here are the steps to follow when using Excel.

  1. Format columns A-L to be text.
  2. Enter detail rows for columns A-L, starting in row 2:
  • Column A = D1 (for record type)
  • Column B = SSN (for use only in pending admission files – do not use for enrolled students!)
  • Column C = First name of applicant; 20 character limit
  • Column D = Middle initial (one character only – no full names or periods)
  • Column E = Last name of applicant; 20 character limit
  • Column F = Name suffix of applicant (ie: ‘Sr’, ‘III’, etc.)
  • Column G = Date of birth of applicant in YYYYMMDD format
  • Column H = Search begin date in YYYYMMDD format (this should begin before the first application would have come in)
  • Column I = Blank
  • Column J = Your 6-digit school code
  • Column K = Your 2-digit branch code (if you don’t know it, enter 00)
  • Column L = Student ID (or other identifier) to aid in analysis
  1. Enter header row columns A-G in row 1:
  • Column A = H1 (for record type)
  • Column B = Your 6-digit school code
  • Column C = Your 2-digit branch code (if you don’t know it, enter 00)
  • Column D = Your school name
  • Column E = File creation date in YYYYMMDD format; date cannot be in the future
  • Column F = DA
  • Column G = I (for entity type, institution of higher education)
  1. Custom format cell E1 and Columns G-H to be YYYYMMDD.
  2. Enter trailer row information for columns A-B in last row
  • Column A = T1 (for record type)
  • Column B = Total number of rows in the spreadsheet, including header and trailder rows)
  1. Save as .txt file – do not use the following characters in your file name: ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) +
  2. Submit your file to the NSC via your secure FTP account. If you do not have a secure FTP account, visit www.studentclearinghouse.org/secure_ftp_access.php?co=1. Each time you successfully upload a file, a receipt email will be sent to you. You should allow 72 hours for your request to be processed.

Appendix B

Linking Your Data Back to Your Applicant Files

After submitting your data, the NSC will email you when your results are ready for retrieval from your secure FTP account. The results consist of three files available for download:

  • Control Report – overview of original inquiry and results
  • Aggregate Report – summary of the first schools attended by your cohort
  • Student Detail Report – specific student-by-student enrollment information for your cohort

We’ll focus our energy on the student detail report, which contains some of the data you submitted (columns A-F and column H) plus appended columns for each student record. Newly added columns are:

  • Column G = Record Found Y/N (whether or not detail report contains student’s college record)
  • Column I = College Code/Branch (OPE/FICE code of the college that the student attended)
  • Column J = College Name
  • Column K = College State
  • Column L = 2-year/4-year (coded “4, “2”, or “L” where L= less than 2-year institution)
  • Column M = Public/Private
  • Column N = Enrollment Begin (begin date for student’s period of attendance)
  • Column O = Enrollment End (end date for student’s period of attendance)
  • Column P = Enrollment Status (where F=full-time, H=half-time, L=less than half-time, A=leave of absence, W=withdrawn, D=deceased, and left blank if reporting college hasn’t defined the student’s enrollment status as directory information)

Schools with active “Expanded Data Discount” status will receive these extra 5 data columns:

  • Column Q = Class Level
  • Column R = Enrollment Major 1
  • Column S = Enrollment CIP 1 (appropriate NCES CIP code for major 1)
  • Column T= Enrollment Major 2
  • Column U = Enrollment CIP 2 (appropriate NCES CIP code for major 2)

Because the data is returned with your unique identifier intact, it’s easy to connect the NSC data with your own applicant data for analysis by using the identifier field.