As high school seniors apply to a greater number of colleges and universities, the national average admission yield rate for colleges has consistently declined in recent years. The yield rate, a measurement of the percent of admitted students choosing to enroll in a given university, has declined from 49 percent for the national fall 2001 admission cycle to 41 percent in the fall 2010 cycle, according to a 2011 report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling.
An increase in the average number of schools to which high school seniors apply has forced colleges and universities to face increasing difficulty in determining which of their admitted students are most likely to accept their offers, the 2011 NACAC report found. The report stated that 25 percent of incoming college freshmen in the fall of 2010 applied to at least seven schools, an increase from the 22 percent who applied to seven or more schools in the fall of 2008.
But yield rates for Brown over the past decade have remained consistently higher than the national trend. More than half of the University’s admitted applicants – 55.8 percent – chose to attend Brown last year. Bucking the national trend, the University’s yield rate has increased by 4 percentage points since the fall 2001 cycle, in which 51.8 percent of applicants enrolled at the University. In the past decade, the University’s yield rate has fluctuated in a 10 percent band from the 2001 low of 51.8 percent to a 2002 high of 59.2 percent.
Admission yield rates at the University’s peer institutions have also remained high in the same time period. Harvard had a 78 percent yield rate in the fall 2002 admission cycle, according to a Moody’s Investor Service report released that year. And 81 percent of students offered spots in Harvard’s class of 2016 chose to attend, making Harvard’s yield rate the highest in the country last year.
Cornell, which had the lowest Ivy League yield rate at 50 percent in 2002, yielded 53 percent of admitted applicants this past admission cycle.
Jim Miller, dean of admission at Brown, linked the national average yield rate’s noticeable decline over the past decade to the upward trend in submitted applications per student.
“Yield rates can be a little overhyped to some degree,” Miller said. “We’re very happy we’ve been able to sustain our yield rate.”
The continuing attractiveness of a Brown education and a need-blind financial aid program for domestic applicants have helped keep the University’s yield rate above the national average, according to Miller. He added that 50 percent of admitted applicants who turn down the University go to one of four schools – Harvard, Princeton, Stanford University and Yale – and that 75 percent matriculate at one of these schools, another Ivy League institute, Duke University or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Miller said the University’s Admission Office focuses less on the yield rate than it does on securing its most desired applicants. “What we worry about is are we getting the students we really want to get,” he said.
Colleen Lim, director of undergraduate admission at Stanford, said yield rates are a byproduct of the complex decision-making process for high school seniors trying to find the right college. “Philosophically, this is about students and the choices they’re making for themselves,” Lim said.
Stanford boasted its highest yield rate of the past decade in fall 2012, as 72.8 percent of applicants accepted their admission offers for the class of 2016. Lim said her office prioritizes keeping incoming class sizes constant by using its single-choice early action program and its waitlist. But she added that the yield rate is to a large degree outside of admission officers’ control.
“There’s not a whole lot we can do,” Lim said. “It’s such an individualized decision.”
Michele Hernandez, a private college admission consultant who specializes in helping high school seniors secure acceptance to elite universities, said she did not anticipate a drastic change in Ivy League yield rates in coming years. She added that early admission programs are a useful tool for top-tier schools to manage their yield rates.
“If you take a higher percentage early, you can control your numbers,” Hernandez said. The only fluctuation in Ivy yield rates occurs when an elite university makes a major change in its admission process, Hernandez said, such as when Harvard, Princeton and the University of Virginia abolished their early action programs in 2006.
“It messed up everything that year,” Hernandez said, adding that the move led many highly qualified students to wait until the regular decision process to submit applications in the hopes of getting into Harvard or Princeton. As a result, less qualified applicants suffered from the heightened competition in the regular decision pool.
“It’s better to get some of the highest shooting kids out of the pool early,” Hernandez said. Harvard, Princeton and UVA reinstated early action programs last fall, leading to more stability in the admission process, she added.
Miller said the Admission Office remains content with its binding early decision program, in which admitted applicants commit to attending the University by mid-December. Last year, the Admission Office accepted 550 of the 2,750 total admitted students via early decision. Students admitted via early decision account for roughly a third of each incoming class.
The trend of submitting a high number of college applications is reflected among current Brown students.
Deepa Chellappa ’14 said she chose Brown after visiting campus for the Admission Office’s event for admitted students, A Day on College Hill. But the University was far from her only choice. “I applied to probably at least 10 schools,” she said.
Heidi Chang ’16 said she applied to 17 other colleges, turning down offers of admission from Carnegie Mellon University, Dartmouth, Northwestern University and Wesleyan University. Brown’s small class sizes for undergraduates and campus beauty attracted her attention, she said.
Sarah Day Dayon ’15, who said she applied to seven schools, added that the University’s distinctive atmosphere led her to turn down attractive financial aid offers from in-state schools.