Record class of MSU first-time students finds connectivity to academic creativity, campus culture, community contribution

Contact: Harriet Laird

MSU President Mark E. Keenum with 2023 New Maroon Camp participants
Mississippi State is welcoming a record class of first-time students, the largest entering class in the university’s 145-year history. Many of them, shown here, set the foundation for their MSU experience at New Maroon Camp, which introduced them to what it means to be a member of the Bulldog family. (Photo by Grace Cockrell)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—More first-time students are attending Mississippi State this fall than ever before.

The university announced today [Nov. 2] an 11.4% increase in first-time students this semester, the largest entering class in the school’s 145-year history.

MSU also recorded its highest number of freshman applications, as the university remains the No. 1 college choice for Mississippi’s high school graduates with 14,296 from the Magnolia State. This totals 63.1% of the student body.

The growth in first-time students follows two years of record-setting graduations. Last year, MSU awarded 5,896 degrees across all levels—the highest number of degrees ever awarded. The previous record was 5,623 degrees awarded in the 2021-22 academic year.

The significant upsurge in first-time students is a result of the land-grant’s multi-year strategic enrollment planning process, a component of the university’s overall strategic plan, Transforming MSU. An addition of academic counselors and marketing staff have contributed to the effort, along with more on-campus events for high school counselors, an expansion of Mississippi State’s geographic footprint into new territories across the U.S., and the launch of innovative new academic programs.

“More than ever, students and their families are choosing Mississippi State University to earn a degree and prepare for the future while also being part of a truly special and unique college experience,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “We are well known as a friendly and welcoming campus where students can excel in the classroom, grow through hands-on research and service opportunities, and develop lifelong relationships. They can also enjoy all that our vibrant and growing community has to offer.”

Overall, MSU’s enrollment remains strong with 22,657 students, eight more than the 2022 headcount. The Bulldog family hails from all 82 Mississippi counties, the 50 states—and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico—plus 85 countries around the world.

Graduate students comprise 20% of the R1 university’s student body in master’s, specialist and doctoral programs, a significant enrollment marker for a Carnegie Classification of Very High Research institution. MSU’s veteran-affiliated population is solid at 4.6%, with the institution consistently recognized nationally in the Top 10 rankings as a Military Friendly School for support of this community.

In the latest First Destination Survey administered by the MSU Career Center, 94% of 2021-22 graduates reported being employed or that they are pursuing advanced degrees within the first six months after graduation. More than half of the graduates who reported their employment location said they have remained in Mississippi to work. Also, the majority of respondents choosing to further their education after graduation are staying in Mississippi, with 74% attending in-state colleges and universities.

When considering compensation for MSU graduates, the university ranks No. 1 in Mississippi as the top “Best Value College,” with graduates earning higher median salaries than those from other in-state colleges. The ranking is calculated by national financial technology company SmartAsset.

Recently developed and fast-growing programs:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Data Science up 200%
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Cybersecurity up 88%
  • Master of Physician Assistant Studies Degree up 22.7%
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Science up 14.9%

Other enrollment facts:

  • First-time graduates up 16.7%
  • College of Architecture, Art and Design up 7.3%
  • College of Veterinary Medicine up 7.3%
  • Bagley College of Engineering graduate programs up 7%
  • Educational Psychology graduate programs up 35%
  • College of Arts & Sciences Interdisciplinary Studies program up 22%

First-time freshman class highlights:

  • 38 National Merit Scholar Finalists
  • 58 Valedictorians and 62 Salutatorians
  • 53 Student Body Presidents
  • 70 STAR Students
  • 64 Eagle Scouts
  • 6 Girl Scout Gold Award Recipients

This past month, MSU became one of only 11 universities and colleges across the U.S. chosen for a new national Gardner Institute initiative to transform the critical first two years of college education during which students create the foundation for ultimate degree completion. Transforming the Foundational Postsecondary Experience will address inequitable performance gaps and improvements to student learning and success.

The university’s efforts to close learning gaps scale the life span. This past month, MSU earned membership in the highly selective Age-Friendly University Global Network, an organization prioritizing educational needs of lifelong learners. MSU is the network’s first member from the Magnolia State, as well as the Southeastern Conference, and joins approximately 100 universities across five continents.

These initiatives are part of the current campuswide effort of “serving the whole student,” outlined in the university’s strategic plan. The plan is a redefinition of the institution’s role in solving some of the world’s most critical challenges by starting locally, or “in our own backyard.”

Mississippi State University is taking care of what matters. Learn more at

Thursday, November 2, 2023 - 4:06 pm