Colleges and graduate programs will do whatever it takes to protect their yield and won’t spare any expense. Admit weekends will wine and dine prospective students with dinners at faculty clubs, organized social events and panel presentations featuring the school’s best and brightest alumni, faculty and current students. Admissions departments will send gifts to admitted students and, in some cases, like that at a women’s college in Decatur, Georgia, school officials may even mail out a booklet containing scented pages to prospective students. Admits of Agnes Scott College could smell pine while viewing a photograph of campus trees and a few pages later, got a whiff of freshly mowed grass while looking at an aerial shot of the Quad.
Admissions directors and marketing managers will jump through all kinds of hoops to ensure admitted applicants matriculate as students in the next class. But, why? What are their incentives? As long as programs get a full class eventually, why should it matter? The answer is that it all comes down to rankings, as a school’s yield percentage is a significant player in the race for the top slots.
Besides these obvious activities to woo admits, schools are also guilty of manipulating the admissions process, a practice commonly referred to as ‘yield protection.’ Some programs will waitlist average applicants so admissions directors can see who is interested enough to fight their way in. Other programs will waitlist higher than average applicants if they believe these applicants would receive interview and admissions offers at more elite institutions.
As an applicant, instead of getting frustrated by these practices, use them to your advantage in the application process. Whether you are applying to college, medical, law or business school, or other graduate programs within the arts and sciences, don’t forget the following tips:
Make Absolutely Sure Admissions Directors at Your Top Choices Know Their Program Is Your First Choice: Attend forums and recruiting events where you can introduce yourself to deans and admissions directors and reiterate how excited you would be if admitted to their institution.
Put It In Writing: After events, send hand-written thank you notes to everyone you spoke with and, of course, drop in a line about your strong desire to attend if admitted.
Be Proactive: Don’t just attend scheduled events. Arrange school visits through the admissions office and set up one-on-one appointments with various faculty members, deans, admissions directors and current students. This not only shows your strong interest in their school, but this will also benefit you during the interview when you will be able to speak in-depth about the school’s offerings.
If You Are Waitlisted, Take Action: Visit the school if you haven’t already, send a letter with updates on your candidacy with a particular emphasis on how well you would fit in at your first choice school, send an additional recommendation letter and keep communication open. You may think it could be annoying, but occasionally following up with admissions committees is a good way to reiterate interest and keep at the top of their minds.
During a time of manipulative yield protection activities and marketing tactics that include scented brochures, you must arm yourself with the knowledge of this game and use it to your advantage. In a few years, when you are studying on the quad of the reach school where you were initially waitlisted, the smell of that freshly mowed grass will be that much sweeter.