Early apps may climb

Yale’s early admissions race has become increasingly crowded each year, and preliminary counts show that this year will be no exception.

Based on ongoing tallies, the number of early action applications submitted to Yale will increase modestly compared to last year’s total of 4,888 applications, Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel told the News this week. Though exact figures will not be released for at least several weeks, a dozen financial aid experts and college guidance counselors interviewed said the nation’s economic crisis will only add to the appeal of Yale and its financial aid program, especially given the sweeping aid reforms announced in January — although it is unclear how widely the message of Yale’s reforms has spread.

To cope with the influx of applications, the admissions office has hired two additional officers to increase its staff to 22 people, Brenzel said.

Still, the initial counts indicate that this year’s rise in applications will not compare to last year’s 36 percent surge after Harvard and Princeton universities admitted their first classes without early admissions programs.

But Brenzel declined to attribute any increase to the economic downturn over any other factors.

“Application numbers tend to fluctuate because of a number of different variables,” he said in an e-mail message.


While some students may now consider scrapping applications to expensive private colleges in favor of in-state public universities, Yale will be largely unaffected by this trend, financial aid experts and college counselors agreed.

The current economic crisis has thrown many high school students and parents into a state of alarm, said Ronald Ramsdell, the founder of College Aid Consulting Services, based in Minneapolis.

“Families are panicking,” he said. “Because of the fear of not retaining the funding to afford a school, they are looking at either a state school or, worst case scenario, a community college.”

This situation has already started to play out in this year’s admissions cycle.

At St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School in Alexandria, Va., seniors have remained interested in highly selective schools, Director of College Counseling Michael Carter said. But many have begun adding public universities to their application lists since the spring, he added.

“This class was one that, back in the spring, was looking at predominantly private colleges,” Carter said. “Now, suddenly, to a certain extent, the brakes have been applied.”

But wealthy schools such as Yale will likely be immune to an applicant aversion to private universities, since many students and families are aware of their strong financial-aid programs, said Justin Draeger, vice president for development at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

“I don’t suspect that there will be any change with the Ivies,” he said. “If you’re on track to go to an Ivy League school, whether you’re low income, middle income or upper income, you’re probably still going to be able to go.”

Interest in financial aid has been growing nationwide. In the first two quarters of 2008, 8.9 million college students filed federal financial aid forms, a 16 percent increase over last year’s total, according to data released by the federal government in July.


But though a large percentage of potential applicants may be well-informed on Yale’s aid offerings, many students in the low-income sector Yale has been aggressively targeting may not realize the extent of the aid available.

Students sometimes dismiss Yale out of hand based on its tuition sticker price, this year at $46,000, said Sandy Bean, coordinator of the college and career center at Woodrow Wilson Senior High School, a public school in Washington, D.C., serving a high proportion of economically disadvantaged students.

“The biggest problem we have is convincing very bright minority students that they can go to a place like Yale,” she said. “Not all students are aware. They look at price tags and they get very frightened.”

The admissions office has tried to publicize its revamped financial-aid program through its Web site, high school presentations, alumni volunteers and other communications materials, Brenzel said.

And last year for the first time, Yale partnered with QuestBridge, a non-profit organization that tries to match low-income, high-achieving students with top universities.

Yale, along with Harvard, has also benefited from intensive media focus on its financial aid reforms, said Matt Reed, a policy analyst for the Project on Student Debt, a non-profit institution that aims to increase economic access to higher education.

Though some potential applicants may still be in the dark on Yale’s financial aid policy, four members of the University’s current early applicant pool interviewed said Yale’s financial aid played a significant role in their decision to apply.

George Hunter, a senior at the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn., said he paid close attention to the types of aid available at his top choices.

“The Yale financial aid package was one of the main reasons why I applied there early,” he said.

Yale also offers a new financial aid calculator on its Web site, which can be helpful in gauging an aid package before applying, said Kay Chen, a senior at Ward Melville High School on Long Island.

“My parents and I were just talking about how much money we could save if I get in,” she said.

An additional factor influencing students’ decisions, especially given the economic climate, may be Yale’s non-binding early action program, Carter said. Many of the students he counsels at St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School are avoiding binding early decision programs at some colleges in favor of non-binding early action programs like Yale’s, he said. (All schools in the Ivy League except Yale, Harvard and Princeton offer binding early decision programs.)

Last year Yale College admitted 1,952 out of 22,813 applicants for a record-low acceptance rate of 8.6 percent.


  • Alum

    It's too bad Yale still feels it has to rely on early admissions to prop up the yield rate. Harvard and Princeton have shown that its possible to consider all applicants on an even footing and survive - particularly f you have a strong financial aid program. I guess no change will be considered until we see how the new US News rankings come out and learn whether yield rate changes help vault Yale past Harvard, Princeton or both.

  • <---

    Yield is NOT a factor in US News rankings so there is no reason to keep early to artificially inflate yield (US News changed this several years ago).

    Considering that early "action" is a nonbinding program, it allows students to still compare financial aid packages etc. I seriously doubt that by merely shifting the deadline back a few months you can ensure that a class is diverse: it seems that recruiting tactics, scholarships etc are far more influential than an arbitrary deadline. Princeton and Harvard thought that the world would follow, but Yale, MIT, Stanford, etc have held strong (by no means is it just Yale).

    As for Princeton's move, early "decision" -- Princeton's former program -- is more unfair, but early "action" allows far more flexibility.

  • Alum

    OF COURSE yield is a factor, since the admit rate is largely a function of the yield rate. Yale shouldn't have to rely on an early admissions program to boost the yield rate, but the feeling, apparently, is that without an early admissions program the overlap pool with Harvard and Stanford would grow too large. Yale stiil loses the bulk of common admits to Harvard, and split 50-50 with Stanford this year, though it has a slight edge over Princeton.

  • Sorry, no

    The admit rate is primarily a function of the number of applicants, not the yield rate. Even though Harvard and Princeton's yields went down significantly and they had to go much more to their waitlists, their overall admit rates stayed about the same because the vast number of applicants to HYPS etc is by and large the factor pushing the admit rate down, not the yield rate.

    I don't know where you're getting your cross admit data: the most recent data is several years old and ranks H, Y, S, P.

    Are you even an alum or just an internet troll? Please go discuss on one of those college forums and not here.

  • Alum

    Sorry, By Sorry no, but to illustrate …

    If two schools have 20,000 applicants for a class of 1,000, and one has an 80% yield rate and the other a 50% yield rate, than the first school only needs to admit 1,250 to fill the class, and the second has to admit 2,000 to fill the class. The widely-differing admit rates are a function of the yield rate achieved.

    At Yale, the yield rate for the majority of the class admitted via early decision is about 85%. For the minority of the class filled by applicants in the much larger regular pool is far lower.

    On another point:

    Rick Shaw, the admissions dean at Stanford (and formerly Yale) - recently informed his Faculty Senate about the percentage of the applicants offered admission to Stanford who enrolled in another institution.

    "The data are from last year for the Class of 2011. For example, if the number of applicants offered admission to Stanford who chose to go elsewhere was approximately 700, 19% (133 in all) chose to attend Yale (in the Class of 2011).

    "Last year Harvard took 27 percent of those that didn't enroll [at Stanford], Yale 19 percent, MIT, 15 percent, and Princeton 7 percent…These are consistently our top competitors."

    Then Dean Shaw showed a table for this year's group (ie, the Class of 2012.) "The percent of non-enrolling students choosing Harvard remained at 27%, rose to 18.2% for Princeton, but dropped to 12.5% for Yale and 11% for MIT."

    Said Dean Shaw, "This is not official yet, but I think it's important. Remember that Harvard and Princeton eliminated their early [admissions] programs. So we're seeing more overlap [now] with Princeton. Harvard is still first, [now] followed by Princeton [which jumped up two places over Yale and MIT]. Yale, then, is next. I don't know why I take some joy in the fact that now it's 80 (going to Yale) vs. 80 (going to Stanford). That's substantially changed over the last couple of years."


  • Anonymous

    The yield rate for early action (not decision, by the way) is much higher than regular decision because people who have already decided that Yale is their top choice apply during that round. People are not more likely to go to Yale because they applied early; People apply early because they're more likely to go to Yale.

  • False

    ^^ That's fine and dandy, but it's actually not the case. The world isn't so ideal.

    Yale's Early Action pool is being flooded by Harvard and Princeton hopefuls who intend to dump Yale after regular decision (if they're accepted to their top choices.) Plenty of people (I'm a student ambassador, so I've seen this time and time again) just throw in applications to Yale because we're an elite school with Early Action, not necessarily because Yale is their top choice.

  • Someone

    By False, I totally agree with you. As a senior in high school I am surrounded with people who are applying to all sorts of colleges. I am not applying to any Ivy Leagues, but I know a lot of people with that mentality.