Understanding Admissions Yield (Part 1 of 3)

You have probably heard about economic indicators, such as Monthly Wholesale Trade, New Residential Sales, and Manufacturers’ Shipments, Inventories, and Orders. Did you know, in admissions, there is also an economic indicator?

That is called an admissions yield. A yield is the percent of admitted students who will actually enroll in a college. Let’s say, for example, Pomona College admitted 1,000 students for the Class of 2013. If 500 students accepted the college’s offer, then Pomona’s admissions yield is 50%. In other words, it yielded 50% of the admitted students, while losing the other 50% of admitted students to some other colleges.

Colleges like to measure their popularity and strength by admissions yield.

Therefore, yield to colleges is like GPA’s to students. Losing admitted students to some other colleges feels like a stab in the back. Colleges, after all, are made up of people who do not take rejections well.

This is why each year before the admissions season, an admissions office will have to estimate the yield to figure out how many students to accept. If it accepts too many, it may (1) reduce the institution’s selectivity, and (2) even end up with a class that is too big. With a bigger than expected class size, the college may have to convert single rooms to double rooms or putting students to sleep off campus, while faculty may complain about the over-crowded classrooms and increased workload.

If it does not accept enough, it may have a class that is too small, leaving empty beds in the dorm and unoccupied seats in the classrooms. With a smaller than expected class size, the college may lose millions of tuition dollars desperately needed to fund research and increase salary.

One year our admissions yield was lower than the previous year. I got a note from Dean Bob Joss, with the following questions:

  • Across the board (and to the best of your knowledge), how many of our admitted students did we lose to Harvard?
  • What is Harvard doing that we are not doing?
  • How does our package compare to the package offered by Harvard?
  • Any ideas you have about how we should, if at all, respond to this concern?

As in Goldilocks, how much is too little, how much is too much, how much is just right?

Wan Chen, Admissions Advisor

Read Part 2 of 3 of Admissions Yield

Read Part 3 of 3 of Admissions Yield

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