Economy may explain dip in early apps

The 5 percent fall in early applications to Yale this year can be largely attributed to the financial downturn, according to eight college counselors interviewed Thursday.

Earlier this week, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions reported that 5,265 students had applied early to Yale, down from last year’s record high of 5,556 applicants. Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel said he did not know how the current economic climate may have affected the number of applications. While the eight college counselors said they agreed with Brenzel’s view that the drop is not “statistically significant,” all noted that the current economic uncertainty is deterring students from committing to single-choice early programs such as Yale’s.

“Applying single-choice early action to Yale restricts a student’s ability to apply early to schools which offer scholarships and merit money,” Beth Slattery, college counselor at the Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, said. “If a student applies early to Yale, they will miss out on merit opportunities which often have similar deadlines.”

Slattery said that this year, more students at her school are talking about applying to state schools and taking up scholarship opportunities. There are several middle-class families who have been hit by the financial crisis but have retained incomes too high to qualify for substantial aid from Yale, she said.

Yale allows some exceptions to its rule that students applying early to Yale may not apply to any other school’s early admissions program: Students are allowed to apply to their home state’s early admissions program if the decision is non-binding, as well as any state university’s rolling admissions program. They can also submit applications to schools with an earlier deadline for students seeking scholarships, provided notification of acceptance is after Jan. 1, as well as any school’s second round of early decisions, again, provided the decisions are announced after Jan. 1.

Even so, some students who want to apply early to another state’s public school or to scholarship programs with notifications before Jan. 1 may still find themselves limited by Yale’s single choice early action program. Tom Walsh, director of college guidance at the Roxbury Latin School in Roxbury, Mass., said that one student at his school found that the closing date for a scholarship he was applying to coincided with Yale’s Nov. 1 early action deadline.

“People are feeling pinched and there is concern among parents that Yale’s financial aid package may not meet their perceived needs,” Walsh said. Fear of a future fall in incomes is not something that can be readily conveyed in financial aid applications, Walsh added. And such fears are driving students and parents to look into a greater variety of schools before submitting their applications, he said.

At the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., a public magnet school, students have always tended not to submit early applications in order to maximize their chance of obtaining money awarded on the basis of merit, which Yale does not offer, Laurie Kobick, the school’s college counselor, said. The economic situation this year may have only prompted more students to defer applying early to single-choice schools such Yale, she said.

Indeed, at the Boston Latin School, another public magnet where there is high demand for need-based aid, almost every student chooses to apply to schools in the regular round in order to access as many merit and scholarship opportunities as possible, Jim Montague, the school’s college counselor, said.

Of six students interviewed who submitted their applications to Yale early this year, all said that the 5 percent drop in early applications has done little to lessen their anxieties about their chances of being accepted.

“I don’t really feel like the decrease in early applications will have any tangible effect on my, or anyone else’s, chances,” Daniel Sisgoreo, who attends College Français in Toronto, said. “A truly outstanding applicant will be just as outstanding in an applicant pool of any size.”

Dru Knox, a junior at Patrick Henry High School in Glade Spring, Va., said he did not feel more confident because he suspected that the strongest applicants were still the ones applying early.

Indeed, Brenzel said that notwithstanding of the fluctuations in applicants from year to year, Yale has always attracted and admitted the candidates that it has wanted the most.

Students applying to Yale’s regular decision round will need to submit their applications by Dec. 31.


  • But then …

    Early apps may have declined 5% at Yale, but they were up 4% at Stanford, up 3% at Dartmouth, up 5% at NYU, up 24% at George Washington and up 32% at Duke, among schools reporting numbers so far.

    So the “economic climate” can hardly be the explanation for the decline in early apps at Yale. Maybe, as Brenzel wishfully asserts, its just a random thing.

    Of greater concern is the fact that the overall yield rate has declined slightly for 4 years in a row despite heavy reliance on the yield-boosting early admissions program.

  • to #1

    Early apps may have declined 5% at Yale, but they were up 4% at Stanford, up 3% at Dartmouth, up 5% at NYU, up 24% at George Washington and up 32% at Duke, among schools reporting numbers so far.

    Could it be Yale’s “unsafe” climate?

  • ashamed of Yale

    Maybe the word is finally out about what an unsafe, oversexed, bunch of alcoholics and druggies attend this college! PLEASE TAKE BACK YOUR SCHOOL AND YOUR DECENCY!!!! And as for Yale administration…stop being intimidated by a bunch of self righteous bunch of spoiled brats and start to enforce the rules and regulations!!!! Keep minors away from liquor and begin an anti binge program!!! N O W !!!!

  • save Yale

    I could not agree more. Now is the time to take back our beloved Yale!

  • @3&4

    You think people aren’t coming here because we drink too much? Hate to break it to you, but Yale’s much more conservative on that front than Dartmouth or Duke, to cite examples from comment #1.

    Maybe it’s because the smog of political correctness and white guilt is so thick here that F. Scott Fitzgerald is now improper to quote and anyone who doesn’t cut their own wrists for having money and disown their topsiders is called pretentious and shown the door.

  • anonymous

    Or maybe its because of the very highly publicized homicide of a Yale student early this semester.

  • @ #7

    Agreed, although it’s irrational considering the locations of many of the schools cited by comment #1: NYU’s in NYC, Duke’s in Durham, and GW is in DC.

  • Recent Alum

    The economy cannot posssibly explain the dip in early apps since anyone can attend Yale regardless of financial circumstances. If anything, now that jobs are scarer than ever, a Yale degree is likely more valuable than ever on the job market (i.e., I doubt many state school grads get jobs at Goldman these days).

    Far more likely is that the reason applicants are becoming less interested in Yale is the increasingly pervasive culture of political correctness and knee-jerk Leftism you see on campus. Every other day you get a story in the YDN about minorities, homosexuals, feminists, etc. “offended” about something utterly ridiculous, and I can’t blame high school seniors for not wanting to be associated with this.

  • alum2

    How would you tell an outstanding science student to apply Yale early where an outstanding science student working hard in her lab 10 o’clock in the morning would be murdered?
    Yale has not addressed any “safety” issue. Yet there was swift action taken for the “T-shirt”…Who is in charge?

  • @#7

    High school seniors know the difference between murdered in the lab and murdered on the street.
    Yale need to stop giving the irresponsible response such as “no comment because it is under investigation” before the applicant rate further dips in the regular cycle.
    Do not blame the economy!

  • ANON

    The campus murder in September reverberated through the news cycle for several weeks…I think that was a big negative.

  • wannabe yalie

    I applied anyway knowing that there was a murder in the news.
    I’d sell a kidney to go to Yale…

  • timemachinist

    I’ve got a plan to bring the USA sustainable energy independence, reverse the trade deficit, revive American employment and manufacturing, while eliminating our climate-changing fossil fuel co2 emissions.