Apr 9, 2012

The Almighty Yield

Congratulations to the thousands of college-bound high school students currently in the enviable position of sorting through admissions offers. You are now officially in the ‘driver’s seat!’

Yes, you worked hard in high school carefully crafting portfolios boasting of challenging courses, good grades, and significant accomplishments. You volunteered in your community, participated in school activities, and revealed true leadership potential.

You spent years making your case for admission. Now colleges have exactly one month to make a case why you ought to accept them.

And you should enjoy every minute.

Between now and May 1, colleges will work hard to earn your business. There will be invitations to ‘admit weekends’ and local events designed to get you signed on the dotted line. You will receive emails, brochures, pleading letters in the mail, and phone calls from enthusiastic admissions offices or current undergrads who are deliriously happy with their experience.

If you were lucky enough to be accepted at Stanford, you may even get a call from a famous Nobel Laureate, who routinely lends a hand to the admissions office this time of year.

And a few really special students will get offers of free trips and will be flown in for a total VIP weekend chocked full of parties, concerts, and all varieties of entertainment solely directed at winning them over.

Why would colleges go to so much effort? The answer lies in the almighty “yield”—the percentage of students who ultimately accept offers of admission.
It works this way: colleges typically send out many more letters of admission than they expect to be accepted. Those with historically lower yields send out relatively more letters than those with established attractiveness like Harvard, which for the first time since 2009 was named “the most popular National University in America among applicants” by US News & World Report, based on an analysis of yield.

Yield is important because it is a proxy for popularity—the higher the yield, the more popular the school. Or so some folks think.

This popularity contest is so important that USNWR makes yield a fairly significant factor in its overall college ranking computations.

Colleges try very hard to precisely peg yield because it makes life in the front office a whole lot easier. Too high a yield and dorms get overcrowded. Too low and the wait list may get drained or seats might be empty in the incoming class.

Careers ride on yield, and admissions offices don’t want to mess it up. Beyond a popularity measure, yield is a clear indication of admission office skill in predicting numbers and match between institution and the individual student.

USNWR uses its access to Common Data Set information to generate lists of college yields ranked from highest to lowest. Interestingly, it is one ranking not totally dominated by the Ivy League.

The following is a summary of the highest yields posted by liberal arts colleges and national universities using the most recent data available (2010-11):

  • US Naval Academy: 85 % ↓ from the previous year
  • US Military Academy: 81.9% ↑
  • US Air Force Academy: 81.9%
  • Savannah State University: 78.4%
  • Berea College: 76.1%↑
  • Harvard University: 75.5%↓
  • Brigham Young University—Provo: 74.7% ↓
  • Stanford University: 71.5% ↑
  • University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma: 71.1%
  • Yeshiva University: 70.7% ↑
  • University of Alaska—Fairbanks: 69.6% ↑
  • Thomas Aquinas College: 69.1% ↓
  • Principia College: 67% ↓
  • University of Nebraska: 66.9% ↓
  • Georgia Southern University: 65.9% ↓
  • Yale University: 65.9% ↓
  • MIT: 63.7% ↓
  • Soka University of America: 63.2%
  • University of Pennsylvania: 62.7% ↑
  • University of North Dakota: 62.4% ↓

Local colleges and universities have mixed results:

* Not included on the USNWR popularity ranking.LinkLink

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