Understanding Admissions Yield (Part 2 of 3)

Colleges and universities use early admission programs to improve their yield rate.

An admissions office will predict whether a student who it admits will attend, through a student’s personal and family circumstances, demonstrated interest, and overall achievement. Generally speaking, the higher the academic profile – class rank, GPA, standardized tests, and teacher recommendations, the lower the probability that a student will accept the admission offer of a particular college, given that a stronger record suggests more choices for the student.

Each year, admission offices are engaged in two kinds of recruiting: Recruiting before the application deadlines to get as many students to apply (to increase selectivity), and recruiting after students are admitted to get as many admitted students to matriculate (to increase yield). They travel around the country to get kids interested and drive them to apply. They tell the families how wonderful their institutions are academically and socially. Colleges, just like us, want to win.

Then, come the spring time, when most of the kids are rejected by the top universities in the country. But why do they spend so much money traveling across America, producing expensive brochures, and holding large information sessions at fancy hotels, when they know that they can only take less than a dozen students out of every one hundred?

The answer is simple. The more students apply, the more selective the institution becomes (at least according to the criteria for the rankings of the U.S. News and World Report). This is why colleges recruit students they will never admit.

Most colleges give special considerations to children of alumni. Colleges have evidence that the yield rate is higher for this group of students than those without such a connection.

Some colleges admit students whose teachers say that they are “the best in class this year,” but perhaps not the best “in my 30 years of teaching.” Colleges know that these kids are less likely to be admitted and more likely to be waitlisted by Harvard and Stanford. So, they take these kids knowing that they may not have “better” places to go.

Many universities, like Duke, Northwestern, Penn, and Columbia admit about 40% of students from their early applicant pools, while admitting less than 10% during the regular round. This is because through their binding Early Decision programs, they will yield almost every single kid whom they admit, guaranteeing a close to 100% matriculation rate, while the non-binding regular round is completely unpredictable in terms of who will matriculate and who will not.

As a result, these Early Decision schools end up denying more regular round students who look strong in all dimensions, superior to their parents, first-rate to their schools, and admirable to their peers. This explains why a top student in an academically competitive school may end up at his 2nd or 3rd choice school.

Sometimes, colleges turn down their strongest applicants to shake off their reputation of being safety schools, even if it means to admit regular strong students.

Other times, colleges waitlist students whose credentials are way above their institutional Profiles. Through the Waitlist Form, colleges are able to find out the true color of their applicants, by asking them to pick one of the following:

  • I would like to remain on your waitlist.
  • I would like to be taken off your waitlist.

Many times, matriculation rates from previous years will be factored into current year’s admissions decision. If a college took 5 top students from a particular high school the previous year but none matriculated, it might take kids who may not be as good but are more likely to matriculate, or simply not to take anyone from the same school.

Almost all the time, a student applying Early Decision to a college, getting accepted, and then deciding not to go, will reflect poorly on the student, his college counselor, and his high school; it could harm the chance of other students who may apply to that same college from his school.

All colleges except a few take more students in the early rounds. Now, let’s take a look at Yale.

For the Class of 2012, it admitted 18.1% from the Early Action pool and 4.8% from the regular pool. For the Class of 2013 (this year), they admitted 13.4% from the early pool and 5.4% from the regular pool. Institutional evidence shows a high matriculation rate of early action admits, and a low matriculation rate of regular admits. This is why your chance improves when you apply early.

So if you ever ask an admissions officer, “Why do you admit so many early applicants?” and you get the answer, “This is because of an exceptionally strong early applicant pool.” Do not believe it. Basically, the officer is telling you, “Santa Clause is from the North Pole.”

Now, let’s take a look at what Harvard is saying to beat its competitors:

  • Meeting people who will one day be very important
  • Meeting people who are currently very important
  • You can date a guy or girl who went to Harvard
  • It’s way less nerdy than your safety school
  • Free massages in the library during finals
  • Dollar bills, thirty-eight billion of them
  • BBQ and tire swings in Harvard Yard
  • Your resume will say Harvard on it
  • Facebook originated at Harvard
  • And much more!

Doesn’t that make you want to go to Harvard?

Wan Chen, Admissions Advisor

Read Part 1 of 3 of Admissions Yield

Read Part 3 of 3 of Admissions Yield

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