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When you’re applying to colleges, you might think that all eyes are on you.
And to some extent, they are. You want your application to stand out among the crowd, which is why you spend so much time honing your application and supporting materials.
However, the application process isn’t all about you. Colleges also work hard to make themselves attractive to prospective students like yourself. In today’s competitive college admissions environment, in which students apply to dozens of schools, many colleges look for one defining feature among their applicants.
It has nothing to do with grades, SAT scores, community service, or anything of that nature.
No, colleges, just like the rest of us, just want to be wanted.
Colleges look for students who are not only able but willing to attend their programs. Therefore, it’s important that you be aware of what your application means for a college’s yield—as well as how yield protection relates to college admissions.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the concept of yield protection (also known as Tufts Syndrome) and tell you everything you need to know.
What is “Yield” as It Relates to College Admissions?
To get a clearer picture of yield protection, it’s important that you first understand the meaning and importance of yield.
As with anything, yield is a term that refers simply to how much you will get out of something. In college admissions, yield refers to the percentage of students who will ultimately enroll after they are accepted. Some colleges view their yield percentages as indicative of their prestige.
Some colleges, like Harvard, have yields of more than 80%—a good sign that the school is selective and that students who are accepted actually want to be there. These schools tend to be applicants’ first choices.
What Is Yield Protection?
The concept of yield is simple enough—but the idea of yield protection is where things get murkier.
Yield protection is a tactic that is supposedly used by certain universities in which they waitlist or even reject star candidates—the ones whose applications clearly stand out above the rest.
Why would a college or university do this? Fear. They are afraid that these students will ultimately be accepted and then matriculate at more prestigious universities.
After all, schools don’t want their yield percentages to suffer, and these esteemed applicants are gamblers in that they may ultimately enroll at other schools. No school wants to be considered a “safety” school—which is one theory as to why yield protection might be used.
That’s the simplest explanation of the concept, but once you begin to wade further into the details, it gets a bit more complicated than that. In fact, one of the most common sources of contention is whether yield protection actually even exists.
Some say that yield protection is a concept made up by students who are bitter over being rejected or waitlisted at a school they thought was a sure thing, while others doubt the ultimate validity of the practice.
Why Do Colleges Care About Yield?
Colleges are almost constantly trying to improve their yields. Improving yield can increase tuition revenues and can also make a college be viewed as more selective.
For example, if a college has 80% of its admitted students enroll—versus 35%—the school can admit fewer students. Therefore, it can meet its enrollment goals with a lower acceptance rate, making it appear more selective and, therefore, more desirable.
The problem arises for colleges when they overestimate their yield and then end up with fewer students than they thought. When yields are lower than expected, this can cause classes to be canceled, staff to be laid off, and other budgetary shortfalls to occur.
However, getting more students than expected can cause problems, too, but on the flip side of things—there can be issues related to housing and class availability.
Is Yield Protection Real?
Although yield is a common and well-understood concept in college admissions, there isn’t much evidence to back up yield protection. Most experts don’t believe it actually exists. There aren’t many ways to prove it, either—although lots of colleges have been accused of yield protection, none have ever admitted to the practice.
And why would they?
Nonetheless, there are plenty of people who believe that yield protection is real, and for a good reason.
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Why Is Yield Protection Believed to Be Real?
Many students strongly believe that this philosophy is incorporated as a regular (though perhaps unspoken) part of many colleges’ admissions practices. Truth be told, there is no actual evidence proving that yield protection is real.
However, the fact remains that colleges want to be viewed as competitive. When strong students don’t get into their top schools—but get into other schools that are viewed as equally or even more competitive—it can be bewildering.
Yield protection is problematic at its core, if it is, in fact, real, because it assumes interest or lack thereof with very little factual evidence to support it.
For example, most colleges use the campus visit as a method of determining a student’s level of enthusiasm. After all, if you’re really keen on attending a school, why wouldn’t you take the time to visit the campus?
The reality is that for many students, a visit to campus is simply not logistically possible. There are various socioeconomic and other factors that come into play, putting some students at a serious disadvantage when it comes to expressing their interest in a school.
So many people believe that yield protection is real because there are numerous schools that place a significant amount of admissions decisions weight on demonstrated interest.
However, what is important to keep in mind is that most college admissions offices examine a number of application features when evaluating a candidate’s admissions eligibility. Some factors simply weigh heavier than others, and in most cases, yield protection is not the real reason why a “highly qualified” student was denied admission.
Often, there are other sneaky factors at play. It could be an unresolved or poorly explained incident of misconduct, a less than enthusiastic recommendation letter, or even a lack of work experience. An admissions committee may have even been put off by the way your essay was written. All in all, there are usually more compelling reasons to deny an application than a lack of demonstrated interest.
Is Tufts Syndrome the Same Thing as Yield Protection?
When you’re reading articles about yield protection, you’ll often hear it referred to as Tufts Syndrome—the two are one and the same.
Tufts Syndrome is a commonly used name for yield protection because Tufts University is one school that has been repeatedly accused of the practice. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen—and in fact, many other schools have admissions statistics that seem to be associated with the practice of yield protection, too.
Other schools that have been accused of Tufts Syndrome include:
- Kenyon College
- Northeastern University
- Rice University
- Tulane University
- University of California Davis
- University of California Los Angeles
- University of Michigan
- Washington University in St. Louis
- University of Southern California
- University of Chicago
- Swarthmore College
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
- New York University
- Lehigh University
- Johns Hopkins University
- Grinnell College
- Franklin and Marshall
- Boston University
- Boston College
- American University
- Case Western Reserve University
…and believe it or not, this list is far from exhaustive.
How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Yield Protection
Although most experts believe that yield protection does not actually exist, there are several ways you can avoid becoming a victim (because, you know, “just in case”!).
Don’t wait until the last minute to submit an application. Even if you know the school you want to attend—and life just got in the way of all the finishing touches of your application—applying during the final hour sends the message that you are less than committed.
Instead, apply as early as you can. If the school you want to attend has Early Decision or Early Action, applying via one of these pipelines can almost completely eliminate the likelihood of you becoming a victim of yield protection.
Do keep in mind, though, that these early application options might not always be the right choice for you. You’ll want to do some research into the requirements of your school of choice and make sure these requirements mesh with your plans and goals.
Either way, even if you’re applying for regular admission, getting your application in a few weeks before the deadline will show that you are interested in attending a school—especially if your application is perfect as can be.
Polish Your Application
Make sure your application is just as polished and perfect as you are. Do whatever you can to perfect your application, whether that means improving your final grades, retaking the SAT, or supplying additional letters of recommendation to make sure your rejection or wait-listing isn’t due to yield protection but instead to a poorly qualified application.
Another way to prove to a college that you have eyes for them—and them alone—is to demonstrate your interest. Take the time to stop by a college’s booth at a college fair or even better, visit campus and meet with a representative.
Try to introduce yourself to as many people as possible and demonstrate your passion for the institution. Get the contact information for anybody and everybody you meet.
If visiting campus is not an option, try to schedule a Skype or phone meeting with faculty members or admissions officers. Again, this will solidify your interest in trending at the school (and as a side bonus, you may be able to ask any lingering questions you might have, too).
Whenever you have a conversation with someone on campus, always follow up. Make sure you continue to reiterate your enthusiasm for the college, even after your initial visit.
As a corollary to the point above, take the time to communicate. There’s a sneaky tactic that some colleges use to track student interest—and you can tap into and take advantage of that tactic with one simple gesture.
Check your email.
Colleges can see whether students open their emails and, if so, how long they view them. They can also track details such as whether (and how often) you check the status of your application and whether or not you call the school. These sound like subtle, meaningless actions, but, believe it or not, they say a lot about your interest in a school.
So does social media. If you can, follow all of the social media channels owned by your college of choice. Even better, don’t just follow—interact. If you know you want to attend a certain institution, “like” that college’s posts as often as you can.
View Your Application as a Work in Progress
Once your application is submitted, you might think that your work is done. That’s not the case.
After your visit, even if you’ve already submitted an application for admission, go ahead and submit a supplemental essay. This can give you just one more opportunity to shine. Write an essay about why you want to attend the school and what exactly appeals to you. Try to reference moments from your visit, whether it’s notable places you visited on campus or conversations that you had with people there.
This shows interest and commitment—something colleges love to see, and something that can dramatically reduce your risks when it comes to the so-called yield protection.
Final Thoughts: Should I Be Worried About Yield Protection?
When it comes to applying for college, you have enough on your plate without having to worry that you don’t seem “interested” enough.
Try not to worry too much about yield protection as you are finalizing the details of your college application. Instead, focus on all the factors you can control. Make sure your application is as polished and perfect as possible, and do your best to stay in touch with the admissions office at your top college.
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Then, hopefully, you’ll never even have to question whether yield protection (aka Tufts’ Syndrome) is the real deal1.5