As Yale’s yield this year holds strong despite recent upheavals in the admissions process at the nation’s top-ranked schools, admissions experts say they are impressed — but not surprised.
Yale’s historically strong appeal for high-school seniors has allowed the University to weather this year’s changes at rival schools, most notably Harvard and Princeton universities, high-school guidance counselors interviewed said. These two schools, on the other hand, appear set to experience a drop in their yields — the percentage of accepted students who choose to attend that school — this year. But many in the admissions community question how relevant small changes in yield really are as an indicator of a school’s popularity or competitiveness.
So far, Yale’s yield stands at 68.9 percent, compared to 69.4 percent at a similar point in the admissions cycle last year, according to Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel. This past week, the admissions office made offers to 45 waitlisted students, with possible future rounds in the offing.
Harvard and Princeton, meanwhile, which made highly publicized moves to eliminate their early-admissions cycles this year, have both experienced slight drops in their yield.
Harvard announced Thursday that it expected its yield to end up at about 76 percent, down from 78 percent last year and the average for the past decade. Harvard will take more than 200 students off the waitlist this year, compared to about 50 last year, according to the Harvard admissions office.
Throughout the admissions process, Harvard has expressed concerns about overcrowding the freshman class and admitted 110 fewer students in April than it did last year.
Princeton also expects its yield to decrease this year by an unspecified amount, from 68 percent last year, according to the Daily Princetonian. Princeton took 86 students off the waitlist this week.
Harvard Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William Fitzsimmons attributed the decrease in Harvard’s yield in part to having lost more students to Yale through Yale’s early action program, according to the Harvard Crimson.
The number of “cross-admits” — or students admitted by multiple schools — among Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Stanford was likely higher this year than in past years, Brenzel said.
“Because the odds against admission to any of the four schools are great, and the schools compare well on so many dimensions, some students felt they should apply to most or all of the four, regardless of where they really wanted to go,” Brenzel wrote in an e-mail Thursday. “It is still too early to say what the final outcome will be in terms of yield, here or elsewhere, given the unprecedented level of waitlist activity we are seeing at both Harvard and Princeton.”
Stanford University, which still has an early-action program, may have reached a record high yield for the school of 72 percent, although this number may change in the next few weeks, the Stanford Daily reported. Last year, Stanford’s yield rate was 70.8 percent.
High-school guidance counselors commended Yale’s admissions office for estimating the number of students who would accept an offer of admission to what seems to be an impressive degree of accuracy, given the uncertainty surrounding this year’s cycle.
“Yale certainly seemed to have a good handle through their mapping and their modeling on the ultimate constitution of their class,” said Tom Walsh, director of college guidance at the private Roxbury Latin School in West Roxbury, Mass.
But many warned that the “game” may not yet be over.
As Harvard and Princeton admit a significant number of students from their waitlists this week, there may be a ripple effect as students turn down schools they had previously accepted, forcing these schools turn to their waitlists again, said Bruce Bailey, college-counseling director at Seattle’s Lakeside School.
The changes in financial-aid programs across the Ivy League, which were announced in the middle of this year’s admissions cycle, may not have had an enormous effect on applicants this year but will likely have a large impact on next year’s applicants, Bailey speculated. Schools that have made significant aid reforms — like Yale and Harvard — will likely see a significant increase in applications as a result, he said.
Although the yield figures at Yale, Harvard and other schools are being closely scrutinized this year, as always, many admissions experts say yield is not a very meaningful statistic with which to evaluate the quality of a school.
Yield, which is no longer taken into account in the compilation of the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings, indicates the attractiveness of the school to some degree, but it is also reflective of the success of the admissions staff in picking students who are good fits for the school, and of the school’s marketing success, said Jon Reider, college-counseling director at San Francisco’s private University High School.
What matters more than the figure for yield is where the students who turn down a particular school go instead, said Henry “Sam” Chauncey Jr. ’57, who led Yale’s effort to co-educate as special assistant to President Kingman Brewster and later served as University secretary and the director of undergraduate admissions and financial aid.
Yale generally loses students only to Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chauncey said, but if large numbers of students suddenly started turning Yale down in favor of a variety of other institutions, Yale might have something to worry about.
Brenzel said Yale, like many other top institutions, works on finding the right students rather than reaching some target application or yield numbers.
“I think for Yale and its peer schools, the total number of applications and total yield on offers are relatively meaningless statistics,” Brenzel wrote in the e-mail. “Instead, we focus — as many strong colleges do — on assembling the class we truly want, addressing priorities that may not be reflected in fluctuations at the level of total application count and overall yield.”
Yale received a record-high 22,813 applications this year — an 18-percent increase over last year’s total — and initially accepted 1,892 students, for a record-low acceptance rate of 8.3 percent.