Yale attracts more applicants

The number of applications to Yale College rose this year, but not as drastically as those to its peer rivals. Yale has received 27,230 applications — up more than 5 percent from the 25,869 it received last year, said Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeffrey Brenzel. While all the Ivy League schools, along with Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reported increases in applicants this year, Harvard, Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania all experienced around 15 percent jumps.

Brenzel said year-to-year fluctuations in total applications have little meaning, and that instead of trying to increase the number of total applicants to the University, the admissions office focuses on attracting the best-qualified students. In that department, Yale is doing very well, he said.

“The scores and grades of our applicants … average the highest of any school in the country,” Brenzel said in an e-mail. “I am extremely satisfied that we are achieving our critical objectives of achieving the strongest applicant pool and the greatest access, while at the same time engaging in ethical recruiting practices.”

Last year, Harvard’s applications rose by 5 percent, Princeton’s by 19 percent, Brown’s by 20 percent, and Dartmouth’s by 4 percent. Yale’s more modest increase may indicate more about its competitors than the University itself, college counselors said. Jon Reider, college counselor at San Francisco University High School, said schools like Harvard aggressively recruit across the country in order to find a “gem in the ocean” — a qualified student who would not have known about Harvard, or its financial aid, if they had not received a mailing.

“They’re very good at finding these kids, and they spend a fortune collecting applications from everyone and their third cousin,” said Reider, adding that unfortunately, the vast majority of students who read these mailings are not qualified to attend top-tier universities like Harvard. “I don’t think this is an honorable thing to do,” he said.

Other counselors echoed Reider’s sentiments, and said Yale’s strategy is more responsible than other schools’. Beth Slattery, college counselor at Harvard-Westlake School in North Hollywood Calif., said Brenzel has been a leader in making sure not to “artificially inflate” Yale’s application number.

Brenzel said Yale has matched its competition in growing application numbers over the past 10 years.

“In terms of competitors, there are only a handful of schools — Yale, Stanford, Harvard, Princeton and MIT — that compete with one another for the most accomplished students,” he said. “Whatever the year-to-year fluctuations may be, the application growth at all five schools has shown similar strength over the past 10-year period.”

College counselors said Yale’s rise in applicants was predictable, and pointed to several University initiatives that they think are attracting more applicants.

Leonard King, director of college counseling at the Maret School in Washington D.C., said the University’s financial aid may be pulling in more applicants, especially from lower-income families. Nancy Beane, college counselor at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Ga., said Yale’s recent efforts to advertise its science and math programs have not gone unnoticed. University President Richard Levin pledged $500 million to the sciences in 2000, and Yale has since undertaken building projects on Science Hill, hired new professors, and invested in equipment.

“Yale has been focusing on math and science quite a bit,” Beane said. “Yale has always had really strong programs [in these areas], but now our students that might have veered towards schools more focused on science are including Yale in that list.”

Slattery said many schools’ numbers have increased because students feel their chances of getting in somewhere will be better if they apply to more places. She said this belief, which is not necessarily accurate, is especially prevalent in the demographic applying to Ivy League schools.

Since 2001, when the class of 2005 applied to college, Yale, Harvard and Princeton have seen increases of 84 percent, 85 percent and 90 percent in applications received, respectively.

Correction: January 21, 2011

A previous version of the story incorrectly stated that since 2005, Yale, Harvard and Princeton have seen increases of 84 percent, 85 percent, and 90 percent in applications received, respectively. These changes have actually taken place since 2001 (since the class of 2005 applied to Yale.)


  • Sara

    Application numbers or acceptance rates do not indicate the quality of the entering class. Even if we got a total of only 3,000 applicants, if they were the 3,000 strongest, we’d still have the strongest class that year given Yale’s high yield rate.

    By most of the “standard” measures of selectivity and educational outcomes, the overall quality of Yale’s entering class is somewhat above that of Harvard’s (perhaps because Yale’s class is somewhat smaller in size), and it is well above that of the other schools mentioned in this article. Looking at Rhodes Scholar production and placement rates into the very top graduate, medical, business and law programs each year, Yale also significantly out-paces its rivals, most likely because its incoming classes are slightly stronger. Admittedly these aren’t the best indications of educational outcomes because other universities may send somewhat smaller proportions of their graduates into professional and academic fields than Yale does, but most would agree that they show Yale gets the cream of the crop, especially when you adjust for Yale’s relatively small enrollment.

    Since many high school students already realize the exceptional strength of the students they will be up against during the application process, they are less likely to apply to Yale than they are to some of the much less selective universities mentioned here.

  • aluminterviewer

    To Sara:

    Hmm … If Yale’s entering class is “somewhat above” that of Harvard in quality, we must really be lucking out to have those two out of three common admits who choose Harvard over Yale be exclusively the lower quality ones!

    Just to think, if Harvard hadn’t stolen them away, Yale would have been stuck with all these mediocraties!

    Where do you get your stats about Yale’s superior production of Rhodes Scholars and better placement rates into to graduate, medical, law and business programs?



  • InterestedObserver1

    To aluminterviewer,

    as someone observed the other day in a Post, virtually every comment you submit is about admissions.

    having spent SO much time on this subject, you MUST know that it is, to put it charitably, remarkably disingenuous for you to cite “cross admits” statistics indicating a Harvard preference, when the most recent study supporting that 2/3 number was done about a decade ago. that study was questioned at the time. but even if it was reliable then, it certainly has little relevance now. why so little relevance now? because at that time, both Harvard and Yale had early action programs. today in 2010, the people who are cross-admitted to H and Y are a different group, and don’t include all the sold-on-Yale students who got in EA. many who get into Yale early don’t even apply to Harvard, so the remaining applicant pool, from which cross-admits are drawn, would not include them, and thus would include a higher percentage of students whose first choice is Harvard.

    it’s surprising to see this type of outdated evidence offered by someone who spends so much time on this topic….

  • InterestedObserver1

    re: relative academic “quality” of Harvard and Yale admits — the 2011 issue of USNWR rates Yale number 1 in selectivity. they define that as follows: SAT/ACT scores of enrollees, percentage of entering class that was in the top 10% of its high school class, and the acceptance rate of the school. there are other recent studies that support this. of course, doubtless there is only the slightest of differences between these schools, or among any of the top schools, but that’s the topic of discussion in this thread, so it’s worth hearing the relevant data. whether these sorts of tiny differences merit discussion is a different question entirely. my answer: probably not….

  • aluminterviewer

    To “interested observer”:

    According to the YDN in September, the 2:1 preference for Harvard over Yale persists among common applicants.


    According to that article, “Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel declined to release Yale’s own (current) cross-admit figures, but he said Yale’s data is fairly consistent with the data from the 2004 report.”

    The Yale/Harvard cross admit pool today is about as large as its ever been – nearly 500. I have heard that without the direct cross admit edge that Harvard has over Yale, the relative yield rates would be far closer to even. As it is, for the Class of 2014, the Harvard yield rate was 75.6%, the Stanford yield rate was 71.6%, and the Yale yield rate was 65.9%.

    Without Yale’s early admissions program, the edge would undoubtedly be higher, since, as you are aware, the purpose of any early admissions program is to reduce cross admit losses to a school’s “rivals” by gaining a 3-month “exclusive negotiating period” with the early admits.

  • InterestedObserver1

    without Yale’s early admissions program, quite the opposite would be true — Harvard’s yield would be lower relative to Yale’s because all those students who prefer Yale (and now get into Yale EA and submit no other app’s) would be back in the cross-admit pool.

  • Thirdeye

    Hi, You guys,
    It is funny for you to compare Yale with Harvard on the same level. Yalies are anxious. From all aspects, Harvard is way above Yale…. Science, medical, and business etc. Only yale’s law school is comparable to Harvard law school. Please keep in mind that Yale is overated, in many respects, Yale is much lower than other peers. Don’t think that Yale generated several stupid family -backed politicians, you would say Yale is great! I agree that yale is not bad, but not so good as you assumed.
    Come back to reality, Harvard is always Harvard, Yale is Yale. Work hard to fill the hole of Yale’s reputation.

  • SY10

    Thirdeye: If you could write grammatically correct English, your opinion about the relative merits of Harvard and Yale might matter to somebody. As it is, given that you seem unqualified to attend college at all, it seems like you could find better uses of your time than opining on whether Yale or Harvard is the best college that would never accept you.

  • Thirdeye

    Don’t be so upset! Your alum George W. Bush cannot speak English well, he graduated from Yale = and successfully stole the president position. Yale is not merit based.

  • SY10

    You realize your beloved Harvard admitted George Bush to its business school, don’t you? And since you consider the Harvard Business School one of the aspects of Harvard that is better than Yale, you clearly don’t actually think admitting George Bush has any relation to a school’s quality.

  • Thirdeye

    Good question! George Bush made both schools embarrassed. But graduate admission is less selective than undergraduate. I cannot understand why whole family can get into Yale so easily. It seems that Bush family own the Yale. ” Legacy is not equal opportunity, Money and political manipulation are not democracy!” Turning back to college, Harvard is much better than Yale from all aspects if you look at different sources of ranking and ….( not just US News). I am not related to Harvard at all. As you said I am not qualified for college. But the whole universe know that Harvard is number one ( but Yale not necessarily number 2, yale can be on the list of top ten). Yale is a great politics school without consideration of morality ( many yale politicians are not honest). If you take advantage of Yale, major in politics, and involves in your conspiracy club ” Skulls and Bones” that will help you how to maximize your power and money with less price and efforts