Apr 7, 2010

College 'Yield' Puts New Admits in the Driver's Seat

Many congratulations to all the college-bound high school students currently in the enviable position of sorting through offers of admission. 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 your leadership potential.

You spent years making your case for admission. Now the colleges have one month to make their case for you to accept the invitation. 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.

A few lucky 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 you over.

Why would colleges go to so much effort? The answer lies in the almighty “yield”—the percent of students accepting an offer admission to any institution. 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 more letters than the more those with established panache like Harvard which has an annual yield hovering around 76 percent.

Yield is important because it is sort of a gauge of popularity—the higher the yield, the more popular the school. This popularity contest feeds certain rankings like USNWR which makes yield a fairly significant factor in its computations.

Colleges try very hard to peg their yield exactly every year because it makes life a whole lot easier. Too high a yield and dorms get overcrowded. Too low and the waitlist may get drained or the incoming class might not be full. 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 has used its access to Common Data Set information to generate lists of college yields ranked from highest to lowest. The following is a summary of the highest yields posted by liberal arts colleges and universities across the country last year:

US Naval Academy: 83%
US Military Academy: 79%
Brigham Young University—Provo: 78%
Harvard University: 76%
Stanford University: 71%
University of Nebraska—Lincoln: 69%
Yale University: 68%
Thomas Aquinas College: 68%
Yeshiva University: 67%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology: 66%

Local colleges and universities have mixed results:

University of Virginia: 48%
Virginia Military Institute: 48%
Georgetown University: 45%
Washington & Lee University: 42%
Virginia Tech: 40%
University of Maryland—College Park: 36%
College of William and Mary: 35%
George Washington University: 34%
St. Mary’s College of Maryland: 32%
Howard University: 31%
Johns Hopkins University: 30%
Catholic University: 22%
American University: 19%

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