While Yale’s ad hoc committee on grading examines grading policies, Princeton is reassessing its own experiment with grade deflation — a move Princeton’s new president attributes in part to concerns about a faltering admissions yield, according to the Daily Princetonian.

Last spring, Yale’s ad hoc committee on grading found that 62 percent of Yale College grades between 2010 and 2012 were in the A-range. Though the committee’s proposal to combat grade inflation by switching to a numerical grading system and setting distribution guidelines was dropped this fall, the committee is still mulling alternative policies. Meanwhile, Princeton, a school known for its grade deflation policies, announced a review of its grading policies last month, referencing the way that the policy has adversely affected Princeton’s image to prospective students. Most Yale undergraduates and third-party college admissions experts interviewed said that while grade deflation was not a decisive factor in causing students to choose Yale over Princeton, grade deflation does reinforce the perception that Princeton has a more competitive and less collaborative academic culture than Yale.

“It’s in the nature of Yale and the people applying there to not have the same competitive feel that both Harvard and Princeton have,” said Adam Yunus, a high school senior from Pittsburgh who applied early action to Yale this year. “At Yale you’re trying to embrace the intellect of [your] peers and you’re not trying to combat that.”

Since implementing grade deflation policies in 2004, Princeton’s yield has dropped from 73.1 percent for the class of 2007 — the last class to be admitted before Princeton’s grading changes were announced — to 68.7 percent for the class of 2017.

Yale College Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said in an email to the News that though he has never heard a student cite grading policies as a factor in choosing Yale during his more than 10 years of admissions work, the Admissions Office actively discusses Yale’s “collaborative academic environment” with prospective students as it is one of the University’s major attributes.

Still, Frederic Nicholas ’17 and Aaron Berman ’16 said that Princeton’s grade deflation policy was a factor in their choosing Yale over Princeton.

“The feeling I got after visiting Princeton was that the grade deflation put too much pressure on students and made students feel as if they were competing for grades,” Berman said, adding that he thinks stricter grading policies at Yale “wouldn’t be conducive to a healthy social and academic environment.”

Of students who were admitted to both Princeton and Yale for the class of 2017, 74 percent chose Yale over Princeton, according to Parchment, an educational website that calculates cross-admit rates between colleges in America. Richard Avitabile, a former admissions officer at New York University and a private college counselor at Steinbrecher and Partners, said while Yale has traditionally held an advantage over Princeton, he does not recall the gap ever being as large as it is now.

Chuck Hughes, president of college admissions consulting service Road to College and a former admissions officer at Harvard, said that Princeton’s decade-long decline in yield can be attributed in part to the university’s stricter grading policies. Hughes added that although students will still choose Princeton over most schools, many of his clients have chosen Stanford, Harvard and Yale over Princeton, citing the difference in grading policies between the schools being one major factor.

“These kids don’t want to be the ones explaining to med school or graduate school why they have lower grades than kids from Yale and Harvard who also have very high MCAT scores and extracurriculars,” Hughes said.

Princeton University administrators have repeatedly said that grade deflation does not harm the job prospects of graduating seniors. Even after commissioning a committee to reevaluate grade deflation this fall, Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber was quoted in the Daily Princeton as saying, “I have not seen evidence that shows [that the grading policy hurts Princeton seniors].”

But a study published in July in the scientific journal PLOS One demonstrated that grade inflation helps students find jobs and be more competitive graduate school applicants. Samuel Swift, postdoctoral fellow at the Haas Business School at the University of California, Berkeley and the lead author of the study, said that when businesses and graduate schools consider applicants, they do not consider the grade distribution at the school from which the student is applying.

Swift added that his research showed that two students with the same GPA from both Princeton and Yale would be considered equally by graduate schools and private employers even if the average GPA at Princeton was significantly lower than that at Yale.

Michael Liao, a freshman at Princeton, said he does not mind Princeton’s deflationary policies, citing a sense of solidarity and strong work ethic among students. Still, he said he does not think professors should be barred from giving grades they feel their students deserve.

“Hard work should never go unrecognized regardless if one is at the top of their class or not,” he said.

According to Princeton’s grading policy, no more than 35 percent of grades in any department should be A’s.

  • theantiyale

    “According to Princeton’s grading policy, no more than 35 percent of grades in any department should be A’s.”

    Intrusive poppycock.
    A professor’s gradebook is sacred.

    Butt out.

  • anonymous

    Most recently, the Princeton yield rate was slightly higher than the Yale yield rate, and the Harvard yield rate was higher than both, undercutting the argument that “competitive” Princeton and Harvard lose cross-admits to warm and cuddly Yale. When Princeton had its record-high 73.1% yield rate in 2007, its was still relying on a yield-boosting “Early Decision” policy, under which admitted applicants are essentially forced to attend. Moreover, at that time, Princeton admissions was still run by long-time director Fred Hargadon, whose policy, notoriously, was to admit what he calculated to be “Princeton types” – avoiding applicants who he thought were likely to prefer Yale or Harvard in any cross-admit situation.

    • yalengineer

      Agreed! Let us allow the YDN to continue to lie with statistics more.

  • vavsrhsu

    Let’s just call the whole thing off. GIve everyone an A and let them hang out and have sex for four year. Just like Winston University. http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/digital-shorts/video/winston-university/1351238/

  • Medavinci

    Well heck, if Yale and Harvard inflate grades and schools like NYU Stern, for example (notorious for grade deflation – a 95 is a B!) deflate, then it would make sense that NYU’s students are much stronger than your basic liberal arts student at an Ivy. I’ve got a friend down at NYU who never sees the light of day, because of the workload and highly qualified b-school students. Let’s face the truth. Some rich, totally unqualified kids who get into any of the Ivys and top schools (especially Dartmouth, Duke, Yale) will continue to send their homework home to their tutors who helped them cheat their way through high school…Going to college doesn’t stop them. They don’t have to worry about internships or future jobs, because they’re trust fund babies and can spend four years of college exactly like they spent four years of middle and high school – drinking, snorting adderall, partying their lives away and sleeping all day. Must be so nice…

    • flowwie

      Oh it’s not like 50% of Duke is on financial aid or anything. Instead of googling such a basic statistic, let’s revert to old stereotypes about Duke so we can make ourselves feel better.

    • taellian

      Here’s a Duke student for you whose family makes less than 60k a year (and has been on welfare in the past). By the way, at least for our science courses, the median grade is usually a B or B-. We have loads of kids here used to making straight As based on pure intellect, with 0 studying, who are now dealing with the very real possibility of making their first C while working their ass off.

      As for NYU Stern, their policy is just percentage based–a certain percentage of students get As, Bs, and Cs. Sometimes that means a 95 is a B, sometimes it means a 75 is an A. And since that policy is that 35% get As, and around 60% get Bs, that makes their grading quite a bit easier than Duke’s.

      Also, even if someone did send their work to tutors, they’d still have tests and final exams to do 100% on their own. In a science class, that will almost always count for 80-100% of your overall grade, and still enough in most humanities courses to where you’d fail if you didn’t bother keeping up yourself.

      Excuse me while I go back to studying for my math final tomorrow. Oh, sorry, I mean drinking and snorting adderall while I send in a substitute with my trust fund money to do it for me.

      • Medavinci

        Taellian…I get your sarcasm 😉 However, truthfully, you’ll be in good company with all the Greenwich, CT kids down there…..

    • John Doe

      lol clearly NYU disillusionment

      There are people with trust funds at both schools loser

      • Medavinci

        You need a reality check ….sad that’s all you can resort to….wonder where you go to school?

        • Guest

          Brother went to harvard and I went to NYU…. I think I have an idea how both schools work. Don’t make excuses and riddle yourself with false beliefs because it makes you feel better about not attending harvard/yale

          • Medavinci

            No one in their right mind would want to go to Harvard…have Yale, and NYU Stern, Georgetown, Princeton & Dartmouth in the family. Don’t need ur advice on that. Doesn’t mean they are great schools…you make your own path in life.