Diana Rosen | Opinion Blogger
We live in a culture that is obsessed with rankings. The rise of websites like Buzzfeed has shown us that we feel the need to rank everything from episodes of television shows to awkward high-fives. It stands to reason that we are equally obsessed with ranking institutions of higher education. As many times as we are told to choose a college based on what seems like the “best fit” or where we can see ourselves happiest, it seems that most students choose the school they are admitted to that is ranked highest on the US News and World Report list.
A major deciding factor in the ranking of colleges in many lists is the admissions rate of the institution. The admission rate, of course, is determined by both the number of applications submitted and the expected yield rate. As colleges know that their admissions rate will factor heavily into their ranking, they do whatever they can to lower this number. There are several strategies. Some schools, like Yale-NUS did last year, focus on inflating the number of applications they receive. Others focus on heavy recruitment of admitted students through early admission programs and visiting days. Anyone who has witnessed the spectacle that is Bulldog Days has seen this in action.
Are colleges focusing too much money and effort on reaching the lowest admissions rate possible? Probably. Still, I hesitate to critique this decision too heavily. The large amount of recruitment that has resulted from this race between the most selective universities probably has helped many students make more informed decisions about where to matriculate. And as misleading as some admissions rates may be because of the ballooning numbers of applications being received, this also means that students are being given more options during the application process. Fixating on the admissions rate, the yield rate or any other number the US News and World Report uses in its calculations is unnecessary. At the same time, society’s fixation on these figures may be part of what brought each of us to Yale in the first place, and for that I am very grateful.
John Masko | Opinion Blogger
“In Search of a Problem”
Since my first year at Yale, freshman class yield rates have remained about the same, at about 68%. Yet, every year, when Yale’s yield rates have ‘underperformed,’ particularly relative to Harvard’s, we hear a fair amount of consternation around campus over what the culprit could be. For the most part, though, this is consternation in search of a problem.
What is the problem? Is it that we’re losing all our most qualified applicants to Harvard and being left with the dregs? Certainly not. From the stimulating conversations I have with Yalies every day (and from knowing a good many Harvard students also), I know this is not the case. It is part and parcel of inter-school rivalry to try and best each other in any way possible. But, sometimes that competitive spirit can cause us to lose sight of some of the great things about our school.
While Harvard may have a higher name recognition (particularly outside the U.S.), and higher admission yield rate, does that really have a concrete effect on the culture of the two schools? Of course it doesn’t. And more importantly, agonizing over it is a waste of time. While, contrary to Scott’s post on the subject yesterday, I would attribute this tendency more to our healthy competitiveness than a spoiled attitude, our focus on the numbers game definitely ignores many of the great things that set Yale apart.
The next time you hear classmates wondering about admit and yield rates, don’t be swept up by it! If these rates begin to result in Yale becoming a sub-par institution, we’ll be the first to know. But until then, let’s enjoy going to a school with one of the most vibrant and brilliant undergraduate student bodies around.
Scott Stern | Opinion Blogger
“Admit rate hits all-time low,” read a News headline in March 2012. A year later, the News ran a similar headline: “Admit rate hits record low.” I can only wonder what the headline will be this March.
It’s not just the News. It’s not uncommon to hear Yale’s exclusive acceptance rate referenced in daily conversations. Students constantly celebrate the joys of being surrounded by the best, the brightest, the shining leaders of tomorrow. This is Yale, after all.
On Friday we learned that Yale’s yield rate for the Class of 2017 remained steady, falling one tenth of a percent to 68.3 percent, and the conversation was slightly mournful. Three quotes in the News lamented Harvard’s higher yield rate — one person actually brought up the phrase “H-bomb.”
Let’s be honest, 68.3 percent is pretty good. It’s really good. The majority schools out there would be thrilled with a yield anywhere near that high. But at Yale, the focus on yield rate is problematic, and validates an immense sense of superiority. Even the weirdly doleful discussions of our yield rate still acknowledged how exclusive Yale was — we just weren’t the most exclusive, so we needed to justify that, blaming Harvard’s negligibly better brand recognition.
Constantly discussing Yale’s exclusivity perpetuates a culture of snobby entitlement. Don’t get free printing? We’re Yale, damn it, we deserve better. Someone in section bloviates while obviously having neglected the reading? Doesn’t he know this is Yale, home of the best students in the world? We expect more.
Thus, the discussions of the yield rate were simultaneously self-satisfied and remarkably spoiled. Yale is at risk of becoming a caricature of itself — obsessed with its own awesomeness, a place where masturbatory discussions of admit and yield rates are the norm.
Just for the record, Yale is obviously less pretentious than Harvard, with its “we are the 6 percent” rhetoric. But we can do better. Next time, we should talk and write about something else.