No doubt you’re already familiar with a college’s acceptance rate, which is the percentage of applicants that a college accepts (out of the total number of students who applied). However, this number can vary widely even at one college—by early decision versus regular decision applications, for example. Still, this number always reveals the percentage of total applicants accepted within each particular category. There are, however, other statistics that matter just as much in college admissions. You’ve probably heard much less about the college yield rate. Yet this number is important, too! Let’s discuss the college yield rate and what you can learn from it.
No, this isn’t another name for the same thing. Contrary to what you might have first thought, it’s not what percentage of applications yield an acceptance letter. However, a college’s yield rate may still impact your chance of admission. So, exactly what is a “yield rate” for colleges?
A college’s yield rate is the percentage of people who accepted their offers of admission. In other words, the percentage of people who chose to enroll in that particular school after having been accepted there.
For example, if a college had 5,000 applicants and accepted 1,000, its acceptance rate would be 20%. If 500 of those 1,000 accepted students chose to enroll there, the school’s yield rate would be 50%—because half of the accepted students selected that college.
What’s the average yield rate? Well, comparing universities is kind of like comparing apples and oranges. Each school has different goals and methodologies to achieve them. Therefore, the concept of an “average” yield rate might not make sense. However, we can tell you that a 50% yield rate indicates positive student enthusiasm, and top schools boast yield rates of 80% or higher!
Why Do College Yield Rates Matter to You?
It’s in a college’s interest to keep its yield rates high, as this suggests that it’s a desirable school. Think of it this way: if you heard 95% of accepted students enrolled in a particular school, that would suggest that it’s a lot of people’s first choice, right? On the other hand, if only 10% of admitted students enrolled, you might think that just about everyone would rather go somewhere else, and only choose that college as a last resort.
Because a college wants to keep its yield rate high, it’s more likely to offer admission to people who it thinks are likely to accept. If a school thinks you’re more likely to go somewhere else, it may be less inclined to accept you. It’s not because you aren’t qualified, but rather the college administrator’s attempt to keep their college yield rate high.
Yield Rates and the Waitlist
Uncertainty in accurately predicting yearly college yield rates is one reason so many universities use a waitlist system. During any given year, the school can’t know the exact number of accepted students that will ultimately enroll for the upcoming semester. However, they also can’t issue more acceptances than there are spots in the freshman class. The consequences of over- or under-enrolling the student body can create issues with the university budget, student housing, and even class offerings. To avoid this, many college administrators prefer to have a backup plan. By keeping a set number of offers conditional, they can balance any unclaimed spots with students from the waitlist.
Taking Yield Rate into Account
For the most part, the yield rate is not a deciding factor for students and families. For colleges and universities, some of their exclusivity is based on selective acceptance and yield rates (among many other data points). However, other aspects of the college experience that impact your day-to-day life are far more important. When selecting schools for your college list, compare academic programs and social environments first.
Later on, once your college list is built, it may be worth investigating yield rates. After all, some admissions readers may take their yield rate into consideration when deciding on their freshman class. Your best bet for avoiding rejection, for this reason, is to demonstrate an interest in the college. If you go out of your way to show a college that you’re really interested in attending, the admissions officers will understand that you’re likely to boost (rather than lower) that school’s yield rate.
What Can Applicants Do to Prepare?
You may be familiar with the “why this college?” essay. There are certain prompts that appear on many applications in slightly different ways, and this is one of them. For instance, “Why do you want to attend Monsters University?” or “What draws you to apply to the engineering program here?” If given the chance, this prompt is a particularly good way to explain that you know all about the school and have compelling reasons to want to attend college there. To achieve the best possible response, be sure to research your answer and reference specific details when writing.
Additionally, you’ll most certainly want to proofread for errors throughout your entire application before sending it off. If you reused sections of your essay submissions (or activities descriptions and the like) from other applications, remove ALL mentions of the other school. It’s worth saving your drafts and proofreading with fresh eyes another day, or asking a trusted friend to review them, to ensure you don’t miss anything.
Another strong strategy is to ensure that your college list appropriately balances safety schools, target or match schools, and reach schools in the first place. In other words, a wide range of institutions that range from easy enrollment to extremely selective. Every school on your list, regardless of the acceptance or yield rates, should be somewhere you can see yourself thriving academically and socially. Taking the time to build a reasonable list of colleges you’d be happy to attend reduces the pressure for any single one from the very start.
Empowerly Can Help!
For more advice on how to level up your application to be as compelling as possible, college admissions experts like Empowerly can answer your questions!