Yield Protection (Or “Tufts Syndrome”)

Yield protection is allegedly done by certain colleges and universities to make sure that their offers only go to teens who will actually enroll and not attend selective schools the minute they get accepted there.

It’s also known as Tuft syndrome, although Tufts University isn’t the only institution that’s purported guilty of protecting its yield.

What is Yield?

In terms of college admissions, yield refers to the number of college-bound students who choose to enroll in a particular college after being offered admission.

Yield rate, on the other hand, refers to the percentage of admitted students who actually attend the admitting institution.

Not all teens who apply to college get accepted. Similarly, not all those who get accepted to college attend the school that has accepted them — some end up going elsewhere.

Basically, that’s the premise of what’s referred to as yield.

The fewer admitted students choose to matriculate to the school, the lower the said college’s yield.

On the other hand, the more admitted students decide to pursue their undergraduate degree at the institution, needless to say, the higher the said college’s yield.

A high yield benefits colleges in a number of ways — we will discuss this matter shortly.

In some instances, you may come across what’s known as yield rate.

It’s the same thing as yield, only that it’s expressed in percentage, which puts yield into context so much better.

Here’s the formula for computing a postsecondary institution’s yield rate:

Yield rate = (number of students who enrolled / number of students who got accepted) x 100

Suppose that College X received a total of 20,000 applicants and its admissions officers decided to send acceptance letters to only 8,000 of them, which brings the institution’s acceptance rate to 40%.

Suppose, too, that of the 8,000 students that College X accepted, only 6,000 decided to attend, which is often determined by putting down a deposit.

Using the formula for computing the yield rate given above, this would mean that the institution’s yield rate amounts to 75%, which is actually a good figure — great job, College X!

You see, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the average yield rate for first-time, first-year college students in the US is only 33.7%

Why is Yield Important to Some Colleges?

Yield is important to some higher education institutions because it determines whether or not the incoming class is underfilled.

A high yield rate is also often associated with a college’s prestige and desirability, which can help it boost its reputation and ranking and attract more qualified applicants.

A high yield allows colleges and universities to fill the incoming class.

Failure to do so could force them to dissolve certain majors, particularly unpopular ones that got a very few number of enrollees, and even lay off some teachers and other staff members, too.

Needless to say, it could cause colleges to close down given that tuition fees are their lifeblood.

Of course, admitting more students to increase the number of matriculants sounds like the perfect solution.

However, this could pose a problem just as big: if most or all of the admits decided to enroll, a college would have overfilled classes, which would result in a lowered quality of education as well as a drop in its reputation.

Speaking of which, a low yield rate can also cause an institution’s ranking to drop.

Many college ranking sites consider yield rate a factor, the weight of which can vary from ranker to ranker — US News is one of those ranking sites that has not included yield rate in its methodology for some time now, though.

A high yield rate is often associated with a high selectivity level.

For instance, the average yield rate at Ivy League schools is 64%, while most highly ranked institutions have 40% to 50% yield rates.

Coupled with a low acceptance rate, a high yield rate is a sure-fire recipe for having a selective image, which many college-bound teens and their parents find attractive.

It’s All About College Admissions

Yield protection is an admissions practice allegedly carried out by some colleges and universities to reject or waitlist highly qualified applicants assuming that they are likely to be accepted by more prestigious institutions and choose to enroll in them, too.

So, in other words, yield protection is done to keep the yield rate up.

Because a low yield can harm colleges in more ways, it’s not uncommon for many of them to take the necessary precautions to make sure that their yield does not suffer each admissions cycle.

One of those is by putting emphasis on demonstrated interest in the review process.

To put it simply, demonstrated interest refers to the steps taken by college-bound high schoolers to show their interest in attending a particular institution.

They are activities that express the commitment of applicants to attend if they get accepted, ranging from applying via a binding admission plan to taking a campus tour.

Shortly, we will talk about some of the things you may do if the college of your dreams seems to care a lot about yield, thus letting you enjoy increased admissions chances — don’t stop reading this post now!

Different colleges that consider demonstrated interest put weight in it in the admissions process differently.

For instance, NACAC says that around 16% of the institutions it surveyed see demonstrated interest as of considerable importance.

About 24% of them, on the other hand, consider it of moderate importance.

And then approximately 28% consider it of limited importance, while 32% do not take demonstrated interest into account at all.

Other than considering how interested prospective students are in attending, some colleges and universities are allegedly resorting to an admissions strategy referred to as yield protection.

The premise is rather simple: strong applicants and selective colleges find each other desirable.

Given that the feeling is mutual, institutions, particularly non-selective ones, that are purportedly practicing yield protection hesitate admitting overqualified applicants thinking that they will simply take their tuition deposits elsewhere as soon as they receive acceptance letters from prestigious colleges where only the strongest applicants get in.

So, in other words, accepting competitive students can cause a not-so-competitive institution’s yield rate and, ultimately, its enrollment and profitability to drop.

Is Yield Protection Real?

Whether or not yield protection is real cannot be proven by any statistical evidence.

Some college admissions experts believe it exists and is a common practice among institutions filled with feelings of inferiority and jealousy, while others agree that it’s simply made up by some students who are bitter over their rejection.

Since talks about it started sometime in the early 1990s when yield rate took on an important role in the college admissions process, no one has actually been able to provide solid proof of its existence.

The closest thing to it was the accusation a particular school received in the past — we will dive into this shortly.

Suppose that College Y is indeed practicing yield rate to keep the number of its enrollees as close as possible to the number of its accepted applicants.

While the system isn’t breaking any law alright and thus will not cause the said institution to be shut down, still, College Y will never ever admit to resorting to yield protection.

That’s because doing so is similar to confessing that it’s an inferior school and that the applicants it accepts would much rather go to a superior school where their competitive academic profiles would fit in so much better.

Earlier in this post, we talked about how some colleges put much emphasis on demonstrated interest in the college admissions process.

Well, they are the ones commonly accused of practicing yield protection, which is thought of as unfair for teens from low-income backgrounds as some ways to demonstrate their interest can be costly, such as taking a campus tour.

On the flip side, some believe that yield protection is perpetrated by students unhappy with their rejection letters.

There are competitive high schoolers with competitive college applications and there are also those with an inflated belief in the competitiveness of their college applications — the latter are thought to be the ones who had caused the myth of yield protection to come into being, wanting to hurt colleges that had refused to appreciate their potential.

Real or not, yield protection has been attributed to the following colleges and universities:

  • American University
  • Boston College
  • Boston University
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Franklin & Marshall College
  • George Washington University
  • Grinnell College
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Kenyon College
  • Lehigh University
  • New York University
  • Northeastern University
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Rice University
  • Swarthmore College
  • Tulane University
  • Tufts University
  • University of California Davis
  • University of California Los Angeles
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Southern California
  • Washington University in St. Louis

Note: The list above contains schools commonly mentioned by various sources when asked about which institutions are accused of yield protection — and it’s also far from being a comprehensive list!

Tufts Syndrome

Yield protection is also sometimes referred to as Tufts syndrome because Tufts University has been accused many times in the past of being one of the biggest proponents of protecting one’s yield rate.

As expected, to date, there is no confirmation from Tufts as to whether or not it indeed practices or had practiced yield protection.

A private research university located in Medford, Massachusetts, Tufts University is ranked #40 in National Universities 2024 by US News.

Founded in 1852, it was originally known as Tufts College.

Some of its popular majors include biology, computer science, economics and psychology.

Tufts is one of the most selective institutions of higher education in the US — it has an acceptance rate of 10%.

It’s considered both a Hidden Ivy and a New Ivy.

The SAT and ACT scores of admitted freshmen students range anywhere from 1450 to 1550 and 33 to 35, respectively.

The average GPA of admits, meanwhile, is estimated to be a whopping 3.91.

Based on the most recent common data set (CDS) of Tufts, the number of first-time, first-year applicants amounted to 34,881. The total number of admitted applicants, meanwhile, was 3,381.

Only 1,695 of those who got accepted actually matriculated to the selective institution.

Using the formula given earlier, the yield rate at Tufts is 50%, which is typical for some of the most highly ranked colleges and universities in the nation — at the Ivy Leagues, once more, the average yield rate is 64%.

However, there’s another thing about Tufts that its latest CDS reveals: it takes demonstrated interest into account in its admissions process, with a relative importance of “considered.”

How To Know If a College Cares About Yield

There are many things a college can do to increase applications and, ultimately, enrollments.

However, there is one strategy that is telling that schools want to accept college-bound high school teeners who are very much likely to attend, and it’s none other than by putting emphasis on demonstrated interest during the review process.

As mentioned earlier, some institutions may consider demonstrated interest as of utmost importance, while others may regard it as something of either moderate or least importance.

In any case, it matters to their admissions officers that candidates are showing signs of attending if accepted, although demonstrating interest alone isn’t the key to getting an offer to attend.

Some colleges will indicate on their websites that they consider demonstrated interest, while others won’t.

Access your dream school’s CDS and head straight to section C7 to have a much better idea of its stance on demonstrated interest, which is found at the bottom of the table.

You know what to do when it says there that it’s very important, and below are some tips.

8 Practical Steps You Can Do If the College Cares About Yield

Applying to a college that obviously prioritizes its yield?

To boost your chances of getting an acceptance letter from its admissions officers, make sure that you show your commitment to it in every possible way, shape or form.

So, in other words, you should demonstrate your interest to avoid being a victim of yield protection, if it in fact practices this sneaky strategy alright.

By pointing out that an offer to enroll is the only thing that is keeping you from matriculating, an institution that cares about its yield rate is very much likely to welcome you to its campus.

The best way to end this post, of course, is by sharing with you the steps to take to get into a college where yield matters.

  • Join the mailing list and read every email it sends you. Don’t just open emails from the college of your choosing — make sure to also click on all the links included as some institutions are known to track those.
  • Participate on social media. Search for the school’s various social media accounts and remember to follow and also leave relevant comments on its posts as well as like and share them, too.
  • Take a campus tour. More and more colleges acknowledge the fact that in-person campus visits favor the wealthy, which is why virtual college tours are just as good as their traditional counterpart in interest demonstration.
  • Attend college fairs and admissions events. Because they are usually held locally, heading to activities held by your top-choice college won’t take up lots of your resources. Just remember to register to validate your attendance!
  • Contact an admissions advisor or a professor. For as long as you don’t bombard them with emails daily or weekly, asking about the admissions process itself or your intended major is welcomed and appreciated as well.
  • Flex your knowledge about the college. Supplemental essays are college-specific, and they serve as an opportunity for you to show how much you know about the institution and why it’s your best-fit school.
  • Apply earlier than your classmates. Nothing can show your commitment to the college more than applying early, in particular via early decision as it’s binding — you have to attend and withdraw your other applications if accepted.
  • Restate your desire to attend if deferred. Got a deferral instead of an offer to enroll after applying early? Let the college know that you’re still interested in attending instead of sulking and cursing the school.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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