Yale uncertain about early yield

As 4,820 high school students from Florida to Frankfurt wait to hear whether they will be accepted early to Yale, University admissions officers are concerned with another question — how many of the students accepted early will decide to matriculate next fall?

Interviews with a dozen admissions counselors from around the country suggest that Yale’s early yield might dip slightly this year following last year’s decisions by Harvard and Princeton universities to eliminate their early admissions programs.

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel prepares to review some of the 4,820 early applications the University received this year.
Grant Smith
Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel prepares to review some of the 4,820 early applications the University received this year.

Despite a 36 percent increase in early applications to the University this year, most of the counselors and college consultants interviewed said some of Yale’s early applicants may have simply wanted to apply to an elite school early and could opt for Harvard or Princeton after regular decisions come in this spring.

But others — mainly guidance counselors at small private schools — disagreed with this analysis, saying they expect the yield to remain the same because of the University’s popularity among high school students and the admissions office’s augmented efforts to encourage accepted students to matriculate.

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel said the decisions of Harvard and Princeton to discontinue their early programs will make it difficult to predict this year’s early yield.

But Brenzel said yield fluctuations do not always accurately reflect a college’s appeal — other situations could also result in a decrease in the University’s matriculation rate.

If the college started heavily recruiting a specific target group such as talented underrepresented minority students, for example, the efforts would likely result in more applications and more offers of admission for those students. Brenzel said. Since most of these students would also receive — and often accept — offers from other universities, the school’s yield would decrease. But Brenzel said this would reflect mainly institutional priorities as opposed to a loss of popularity.

“Minor fluctuations in applications or yield do not say anything about Yale,” Brenzel said. “In our particular case, we have an immensely strong appeal to the very best students of every kind.”

Yale’s yield for all accepted students — both early and regular — has hovered around 71 percent for the past three years.

Michele Hernandez, president and founder of Hernandez College Consulting, agreed with the prediction that the “Harvard-Princeton effect” will decrease Yale’s early yield this year.

Hernandez said, in the past few months, she has counseled students to apply early to Yale only if they were seriously interested in the school, but she said that it is likely that some students might have operated with different motives.

Several high school guidance counselors disagreed that the decisions of Harvard and Princeton had impacted students’ application strategies.

The number of applicants to Yale from San Francisco’s private University High School has remained relatively constant this year, College Counseling Director Jon Reider said. And he said he expects the enthusiasm of the students applying early to Yale will maintain Yale’s typically high yield.

Alex Wise, a senior at the private National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C., said she had never considered applying early to any school besides Yale — Harvard and Princeton included.

“Yale was always my first choice,” Wise said. “So [Harvard and Princeton’s absence in the early pool] didn’t have any impact on my decision.”

One inherent problem with predicting yield is that each year, the profile of the applicant pool changes significantly from the previous year, said Dean Jacoby, director of college counseling at the private Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Conn.

Though more Choate students are applying early to Yale this year, Jacoby said the decisions were based on a variety of individual factors, not just the inability to apply early to Harvard or Princeton. And Jacoby said he thinks Yale’s yield might actually go up this year, because of the positive connection students form with a school once they are accepted early — one that is difficult to shake, even if they are accepted elsewhere regular decision.

“For four or five months, students are picturing themselves at Yale or wearing Yale sweatshirts,” Jacoby said. “Any other school has to knock that early school off the pedestal.”

The difference in the predictions made by high school guidance counselors — that yield will either stay the same or increase — and those made by consultants — that yield will go down — might result from different attitudes towards applying early. Most of the nine high school guidance counselors interviewed said they encouraged students to apply early only if the school was their clear first choice.

Reider said he went one step further — actively discouraging some students from applying early.

“We try to hold people back, and we’re tickled like anything when kids hold themselves back,” Reider said. “It’s just a myth that you have an advantage when you apply early.”

But representatives at two consulting firms interviewed said they usually encourage clients to apply to early action programs.

“If it’s not binding, you can still shop around,” David Petersam, president of the Virginia-based AdmissionsConsultants Inc. said. “Obviously you’re not bound to that school.”

Mark Sklarow, executive director of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, said he disagrees with this strategy. A good college counselor, he said, encourages students to think about their options throughout senior year, without forcing them to make a premature choice in the fall.

Two high school guidance counselors interviewed said they wish Yale had followed Harvard and Princeton’s lead and eliminated its early program altogether.

“In some ways it would have been perhaps preferable if students who are looking at the top schools would be able to say, ‘I can’t make any decisions early,’” Jacoby said. “Then they could make more long-term decisions. College rarely offers that to students. It more often has a do-it-now pressure.”

Yale announced last January that it would maintain its early program for at least another admissions cycle.

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