Predicting Yield in 2021: Everyone Shorts It 

“$10 says he shorts it.” Just one of the countless quotable lines in the must watch classic, Oceans 11. 

After assembling the perfect crew, stealing a massive explosive device, falsifying identities, and recreating identical vaults, the heist of three Las Vegas casinos comes down to the ability of Yen (Shaobo Qin) to pull off a 10-foot backflip and land squarely on top of a cabinet inside a heavily protected vault that contains $160 million

As the other members of Danny Oceans’ team watch from their secure location, Frank (Bernie Mac), says, “$10 says he shorts it.” While several of the crew jumped in to not only take the bet but raise the stakes during the simulated heist in their workshop, when it comes down to the real thing, they quickly and nervously reply, “No bet.”  

If he misses, alarms will sound, guards will show up, and disaster is imminent. After all the planning, pouring over details, considering scenarios, deliberating, discussing, and ad nauseum scrutiny and analysis, success ultimately hinges on a single leap. Welcome to college admission in 2021! 

Right now, admission and enrollment leaders around the country are obsessing over the models they developed to predict student “yield” behavior. They are looking back at pre-pandemic information and weighing that against 2020, in addition to praying more, sleeping less, and stretching out to make the “leap.   

Will students be willing to travel as far from home given the uncertainty of fall course delivery being in person? 

Will international students be able to physically get to the U.S., whether as a result of visa issuance or travel restrictions? 

Will test optional admits yield differently than their historical model predicts? 

How will females from the northeast admitted to the sciences yield? 

Some of the colleges that have garnered headlines in recent months for shattering application records are perhaps the most disconcerted. They know that while Common App data indicates the number of applications submitted increased by 500,000+, unique applicants (students using the platform) only increased by 80,000. While that’s not nothing, it’s also important to note that 40 new schools began accepting the Common App this year, including several big public schools that historically receive tens of thousands of applications. Translation: the average number of applications students submitted is what really increased. So, while app counts may please the Board of Trustees in the winter, what really matters is the fall census.   

And that leads us to yield. What do the next few months hold on converting students? Obviously, the easy/classic admission answer is, “it depends.” Granted, that is true, but I’m not going to do you like that. At the risk of being wrong or even “right-ish, my prediction is everyone shorts it… just at different times and for different reasons.  

At the more selective colleges (especially that incredibly small number meeting 100% of need without loans): Yield will likely remain relatively consistent. However, since those are also colleges counting beds and heads to a very precise numberand they are also the ones who saw larger gap year requests, you should count on them intentionally coming in short of their class target and working their waitlist extensively.  

Applications up, raw number of admits flat or negligibly up, sizeable raw number added to the waitlist. When you have more money in your endowment than there is in the vault, the game is to slowly walk over and climb up, rather than risk flipping over (or out as the case may be)If that’s too much of a mixed metaphor it goes like this: more students waitlisted but likely a higher percentage of the class filled from it over a longer period of timei.e., activity beginning pre-May 1 and continuing deep into the summer.  

At colleges and universities (primarily national publics) announcing an increase in their class sizeIf you have applied to a school in this category, it will be interesting to watch how those increases factor into admit and yield rates.  

My prediction is these schools see flat or slightly higher in-state yield, and slightly lower non-resident/ international yield, due again to financial, health, and mobility impacts of the pandemic. I anticipate these schools will also build a bigger waitlist than last year, in case they misjudge the vault flip. 

Here’s how it looks at Tech: We received about 4,400 more applications than last year. However, we are also increasing our class size by 150. Last year’s yield was nearly 70% for in-state and closer to 30% for non-Georgia. So, our model calls for admitting nearly 1,000 more students through EA, RD, and waitlist. Ultimately, due to the 11% app increase, our admit rate would move +/- >1%. Told you—there  is nuance in the numbers. 

At less selective colleges (private and public): I expect many/most to miss their class goal by their deposit deadline, be that May 1 or June 1.  Since higher education is an ecosystem, the dominos will start to fall as selective schools go to their waitlists, which will create even more problems for colleges already “hearing alarm bells in the vault.” Last year undergraduate enrollment was down 4% with first-year enrollment down double-digits. Expect to see a big swath of higher ed again come in short of their enrollment goals this fall for both new and returning students.   

In rare cases: yield could increase unexpectedly, and in combination with more admits, they could end up like Yen in Ocean’s 11 sliding over the cabinet. However, higher anticipated summer melt should keep them off the vault floor, so I don’t foresee any/many stories like those out of Virginia Tech in 2019.  

Bottom line 

1- If you applied to a handful of selective colleges, don’t be surprised if you get waitlisted this year. If you are so angry that you want to write them off, don’t accept your spot on the waitlist. If you can put your ego aside and temper expectations (since hundreds, or possibly thousands of other kids are also on the waitlist), deposit elsewhere and sit tight. Don’t expect to come off the waitlist, and don’t expect much financial aid if you do. In some cases, you will be pleasantly surprised on one or both counts. But set your expectations based on fiscal reality and statistics.  

2- When you get accepted (or if you already have been) ask your questions. Colleges need students, now more than ever. Yield is what it’s all about and you are precious to the places that offered you a spot. Want to know about a deposit extension? Gap year policies? Financial aid reconsideration? Fall plans for course delivery? It’s all on the table, so ASK YOUR QUESTIONS! 

3–  I could add something else here for symmetry but that’s really all I’ve got. Hang in there. Be safe, wear a mask, take care of the folks around you, and as always, Hug your mama! 

 

Waiting Well in Uncertainty

This week we welcome Senior Admission Counselor Samantha Rose-Sinclair to the blog. Welcome back, Sammy!

If you applied to colleges for regular decision, it’s been a few long weeks now that you’ve been waiting on your decision. For the many Early Action applicants deferred from schools this year, it’s been even longer—we’re talking months. Long enough to have watched The Office 26 times back to back.

Still waiting…

While you’re suspended in the discomfort of uncertainty for so long, it’s easy to fixate, to try and find insights that fill in the gaps of what you don’t know. First-year profiles and stats? “How I Got In” YouTube videos? Common Data Sets? Checked them. A thousand times. You may find yourself hunting for signs, trying to decipher anything, anything, as an indicator of what’s to come. An email from Financial Aid? A new button on the admission portal? That could mean something, right? And then there’s daydreaming about life after the admission decision, and how much better things will be.

This is not me passing judgment. This is me speaking from experience. Let me level with you for a moment:

While I was halfway across the country waiting on a potential job offer from Georgia Tech, I jumped into a bottomless pit of internet tabs and YouTube videos about Atlanta and Georgia Tech every night. Every. Night. While I was waiting to hear if my offer was accepted on my home, I scrolled through the pictures on Zillow over… and over… and over. Before long, I had mapped out every grocery store, restaurant, and retail store within a 5-mile radius.

To bring us back a little bit closer to home, I applied to graduate school two summers ago. Slightly different than undergraduate admission, but the application bones were the same: transcripts, test scores, essays, recommendations, the whole deal. I obsessed. I tried to find all I could about how likely I was to get admitted. (You know when you’ve hit the third page of Google results you’re in way too deep.) In my interview, the recruiter quite literally told me I was going to be admitted a few weeks later, and I STILL kept at it.

Feel familiar? Truly, my hope for you is to be better than me. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Getting excited about a new adventure is a good thing.

Researching and virtually visiting schools so that you’re well prepared to make a decision in a few months is a good thing. But doing all the things I just described above? That doesn’t feel good. If you stop to think about how you feel when you’re doing these things, you’ll likely agree.

My hope for you is that you can recognize that moment, and act on it. Reclaim your time, and see this period of time between submitting applications and making a college decision as an opportunity. There are people you care about and things you can do in your last year of high school that deserve your attention now, so much more than the college admission fixation. I promise you, investing your energy in them will feel a million times better.

Trying to peg your likelihood of admission with “chance-me’s,” or thinking up various calculations of where you fall/versus application numbers/versus admit rates, can only provide a fleeting and false sense of certainty where there isn’t any.

It won’t help. I understand the instinct to want to know the unknown. Unfortunately, while you’re waiting for an admission decision, I’ve learned there’s not much you can research that will truly help you “know.”

Here’s a bit of tough love for you:

  • “How I Got In” videos provide singular anecdotal evidence of an admission decision, without insight on what actually lead to that decision in application review. Yet, they’re often presented as a guide or formula to admission, which is terribly misleading. Don’t put any stock into them.
  • “Chance me’s” lack context of the high school, the full student experience, application, academic history, or the applicant pool—all things that factor into admission review.
  • First-year profiles, stats, and data sets, though they’re more data driven, are a guideline of historical numbers. They are not an absolute guarantee of admission results, especially in selective, holistic environments where the important qualitative elements of a class are difficult to summarize. Last year’s first-year profiles also are missing another critical factor: for the most part, those students applied pre-Covid-19. The context of their class profile is completely different than yours.

Boom. There’s the tough love. I don’t want to leave you feeling defeated and without a compass.  However, I believe it’s helpful to realize the compass wasn’t reliable in the first place.

Here’s the good news: wait well, and know that certainty is coming. You’ve worked hard! You’ve done your part to submit your application. The ball will be back in your court soon, but for right now, you’re not going to be in the room while your application is being read.

With all else that you have on your plate, refocus your time and energy on controlling what you can control. Take time for yourself. Take time for your friends. Hug your mama.

A college admission decision does not define you—it is not a judgement of your character, abilities, or a predictor of future success.

Let’s add on to that: a college in and of itself will not define you either. So, if you feel stuck, fixated on daydreaming about how great life will be at this one college if you could just get admitted… rethink that perspective. Don’t give any one school that kind of weight—put that power back in yourself. You’ll explore new opportunities, invest in your own personal development, challenge yourself, and create new relationships in the coming years. That’s not dependent on one college—that’s all you.

The truth is, you will be great no matter where you go, as long as you take that excitement with you, and really show up wherever you end up this fall.

My hope is that you can take the pressure off of any given admission decision in the coming months, and can get excited for the bigger picture. Trust us, it works out.

On behalf of college admission officers everywhere, thank you for waiting with us, and allowing us the opportunity and time to dive into your accomplishments. We’re in the home stretch now!

Sammy Rose-Sinclair has worked in college admission for five years. She moved to Atlanta and joined Georgia Tech three years ago as a senior admission counselor on the first-year admission team. She uses that same love of engaging with students, families, and counselors to interact with the Tech Admission community as the coordinator of our social media channels (@gtadmission).

What does being admitted mean?

This is the final blog in our three-part series looking at different admission decisions. Check out part 1 (what it does and does not mean to be deferred) and part 2 (how to handle and move forward after being denied) for more details.  

“You are in! Congratulations! Welcome!”

In the last few weeks, thousands and thousands of students have received letters, emails, or portal notifications with these words. Fireworks, falling confetti, gifs with mascots dancing (if you got one with fireworks dancing or mascots on fire, please contact the admission office immediately!). Being offered admission is a little bit easier to understand than being deferred or denied, but there is good reason the letter you received is more than one sentence. So, let’s dive into what it does and does not mean, as well as what you should do and avoid doing after being admitted. (Note: This week I’m pushing my predictions about offers of admission during Covid-19 to the end, so stay tuned!).

What does being admitted mean?  

It means “Yes! You are in! Congratulations! Welcome!” (Cue the music!)

Being admitted means the college recognizes and celebrates your academic ability and preparation, as well as your potential to contribute outside the classroom on their campus. Additionally, it means your writing, interviews, recommendations, or other supporting materials were in line with their mission and goals as an institution. This is what is commonly referred to as match or fit.

It means you have an option, a choice, a possible place to continue your education and pursue your long-term goals. This is a big deal! Congratulations!

What should you do?  

I know this is not really a 2020 thing to do, but you should CELEBRATE! You. Got. In! So regardless of whether you are convinced you are going to that college or not– celebrate. Order out from your favorite restaurant or treat yourself to something you’ve been wanting (we should all buy ourselves at least one thing around the holidays anyway, right?). You do you.

The bottom line is we are all too quick to move on to the next thing in life. You should sit with your success for just a moment.  Consider the hard work you have put in to have this choice. Then thank the people in your life who have made this possible. Family members, coaches, teachers, and so on. Send them a text, write them a note, or bring them a gift. Celebrating is always better in community- thank yours!

Attend admitted student sessions.  In the weeks and months ahead, that college is going to host a number of online or in-person sessions, tours, or virtual programs specifically for admitted students. Register for these. This is a great opportunity to hear from current students, faculty, or alumni about their experience in that community. Invaluable information.

Meet financial aid deadlines. If you were admitted through an ED plan, this will look a bit different. Likely you have a deposit deadline to meet soon and they will be sending you plenty… plenty of information and reminders here.

If you were admitted through a non-binding plan, make sure to submit your FAFSA and any other required financial aid documents as soon as possible. Financial aid is all about deadlines. Check out more on our recent podcast.

What does being admitted NOT mean?  

It does not mean you are smarter, cooler, or a better person than someone in your class, team, or neighborhood who did not get in. I’m not saying you’re not awesome, and the college who offered you admission clearly communicated that in words and graphics. Soon they will be reiterating that message in every medium known to man (phone calls, emails, letters, texts, and potentially owls, too).

But let’s be honest: it could have gone the other way for you, too. As we’ve covered, holistic admission is unpredictable. Again, some crazy qualified and talented students did not get in. They are disappointed and hurting. So, act like you’ve been there before.

It’s okay to post your excitement on social media, but a little humility goes a long way. There is a big difference between: “Got into UVA! Hoo didn’t think I’d get in.” vs. “Accepted to Colorado College. Excited and humbled.”  Whether it be online or in person, keep it classy, my friend.

What should you AVOID doing? 

Do not blow off any offer of admission as being a little thing. Too often we hear students say, “Yeah, I got it, but it’s just the University of X.” C’mon, man. What kind of logic is that? You are the one who applied there! Be thankful that you have an option! In my opinion, that is the entire goal of the college admission experience.

Avoid slacking off in classes or making drastic changes to your spring schedule now that you have been admitted. Go back and read the second or third section of that letter. Inevitably, it discusses how they will be reviewing your final fall and spring grades. They likely discuss their right to revoke admission if you do not continue the academic pattern you set over the last few years, and on which they based their decision to admit you.

If you are going to make changes to your spring schedule, especially if those move away from and not toward additional or equivalent rigor, you should contact the college before spring semester begins.

Want to read more about being offered admission? Read on. And on.

Prediction:  In general, there will be more offers of admission going out in the fall, spring, and summer this year for a few reasons. First, I expect many colleges stay flat or lose applications compared to last year. We are already seeing this in Common App data, and some schools who were up in EA/ED are seeing their gap close as the RD deadline approaches. More EA and ED admits means more closed apps earlier in the cycle, and thus more spots freed up (in other words, look for an increase in admit rate).

Recent National Clearinghouse data supports what many feared: fewer students both started (-4.4%) and returned to college this year (-13%). As a result, many colleges will be looking for ways to build back enrollment. Some will turn the transfer lever harder, but many will seek to grow their first-year class size. Again, more admits.

So, whether you have recently been admitted or you are still waiting on decisions, the good news is colleges need students! Whether you are currently sitting on an admit or waiting to hear back, I have full confidence one is coming your way. Covid has been rough on the class of 2020 and 2021. This is a bright spot. Get fired up!

What does being denied mean?

This is part 2 of a 3-part series looking at different admission decisions: what they do and do not, mean; what you should you do and avoid doing in their wake; and what, if anything, is different this year due to Covid-19.  

While nobody loves being told maybe (as discussed last week with deferrals), I think we can all agree that a straight “no” is even harder. 

Bad news: that is where we are going today. Good news: I have as much experience hearing “no” as I do saying it. I was denied admission as a high school student; again by a few graduate schools; and in more recent years for jobs at other colleges. I may not hold the record on university denial letters, but I could make a run at the title.  

Whether you have recently received a deny, or you are waiting on an admission decision to come in the next few days or weeks, the tips and advice below come from lived (and deeply felt) experience.   

Denied Admission 

Prediction: In contrast to last week’s prognostication about more defers (and likely waitlist offers) across the board, I think denies will be like the relationship of a couple in a romantic comedy or the stock market during this pandemic—up and down… not always in that order.   

While overall I do think the percentage denied by most colleges in early rounds will go down (see this blog for rationale), some of  the colleges releasing decisions around this time of year are currently reporting bigger applicant pools. If the college you applied to is not increasing its class size, even if they both admit and defer more students, the raw number of denies could essentially be flat or even increase. 

In other words, still a lot of dream killing and tears in December.

What does being denied admission mean?   

It means “no.” Band-aid off, short letter, 86, time to move on. Some of you may not have needed all of those examples, but as a talented student and likely a really great person in general, I am guessing this is neither a word nor a concept you’ve experienced often.   

Being denied admission means that based on supply and demand, institutional priorities, or some combination of the two, they are unable to offer you admission. It means that even if you cheer for their team each season or just overpaid for a hoodie from their online bookstore or have eight family members who attended, they have closed the door.  

While I do not love being the one to put it so abruptly, I’ve seen some admission letters take three paragraphs to say “No” and others leaving you wondering if that is really what they said at all. Hint: If they don’t say “Congratulations!” in the first word or sentence, it’s likely a “No.” I’m not going to do you like that. Trust me- we have to start quick and rough in order to provide perspective and move on. 

What should you do?   

Scream, cry, beat your pillow, cook, or eat a lot of something. Whatever it takes to begin clearing your head. We all have different responses and emotions surrounding notifications of finality. And since I feel like we have already gone there at this point, I might as well be the one to tell you this is not the last time you’ll encounter these kinds of disappointments.  

One thing you need to hear, and maybe repeat back to yourself in the days and weeks after being denied, is that however you are feeling is both reasonable and understandable. Mad? Sad? Frustrated? Disappointed? I get it.   

What brings you joy or clears your headDo those things. Go for a long drive, watch a funny movie, or eat a gallon of ice cream. What brings you perspective? Who totally gets you or can make you laugh or feel like the only person in the room? Be intentional about being in those spaces and with those people right now. 

Then you should start to move forward. Take some time to look at some of the college brochures laying around your room. Check your email from the last week and be reminded that you have lots of options and lots of choices.  

You are likely going to need to submit another application or two. If you’ve already got this covered, that’s great. If not, then good news—many great schools have deadlines in January. Look for colleges that interest you who have higher admit rates and lower academic profiles than the one(s) that denied you. 

What does being denied admission NOT mean?   

Being denied, especially from a selective institution (i.e. a lot of them releasing decisions right now) does not mean you are not smart, talented, capable, bound for future success, or a good person. These decisions are not perfect or perfectly fair.  

Being denied does not mean your effort to this point has all been in vain; that you did something wrong in your application; or that if you had either sent or not sent test scores the result would have been different. 

Do not second guess yourself—a denial from a college(s) does not mean that you are not going to get into the other schools to which you applied (an actual question/comment from my neighbor’s daughter last week).  

What should you AVOID doing?  

Do not look backward. Please do not accuse Mr. Wilson of writing you a crappy recommendation letter; tell Mrs. Jenks that if she had just bumped your 9th grade Geography grade from an 89 to a 93 (especially after turning in your amazing extra credit project on the “Primary Tributaries of the Mississippi River”) you would have been admitted; or question if you should have joined the Spanish club as a sophomore.  

Do not conflate or confuse the message. Please do not convince yourself the school that denied you was the only school where you could be happy (note: this is also true of relationships, jobs, etc. for the future). In my opinion, the terms “dream school” and “top choice” should be banned. 4,000 schools in the country. You may not feel okay right now, but you are going to be.  

Do not go for a long drive, watch a funny movie, and eat a gallon of ice cream simultaneously (just wanted to be sure you caught that “or” from earlier and did not think I was suggesting combining those).   

Please keep perspective. Do not send an expletive laced email rant to the college’s admission counselor cc’ing the President, Provost, multiple congressional representatives, and the entire Board. As I said earlier, this is all based in lived experience. In fact, we had one a few years ago that also copied—wait for it— our Governor, as well as the President and Vice President of the United States. (For those scoring at home I kept that one.)

Do not burn articles of clothing with that college’s logo. Instead, take a breath, do some good, and locate your closest Goodwill.   

Over the years I’ve written extensively about my own personal re-routes, as well as the experiences of students, family, and friends in hopes of providing solace when something you hope for doesn’t go as planned:

Please hear me say again: however you are feeling right now (or in the days and week after receiving a denial) is both reasonable and understandable.

What you need to avoid is sitting in that particular emotion for too long. Do not get stuck; do not stay down. understand if you do not want to hear or believe this right nowbut I can say with absolute confidence through repeatedly lived experience,  It Works Out.  

I’ll see you on The Other Side. 

If you would like to subscribe to receive blog entries when they post, please enter your email address in the “subscribe” box at the top of the page. We welcome comments and feedback at @gtadmission on Twitter.

What does being deferred mean?  

Listen to “Episode 27: What Does Being Deferred Really Mean? – Rick Clark” on Spreaker.

Recently we modified the final portion of our podcast to field listener questions from Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit. If you have something you want us to tackle, feel free to tag @gtadmission.

A few recent inquiries surrounded how to prepare for the various admission decisions that will be coming out from colleges and universities in the next few weeks, and how/if we think anything will be different this year due to the pandemic.

Since we know you are busy with classes and your time is limited right now, we will hit the highlights of each possible EA/ED decision (deferred, denied, admitted) over the next few weeks and put a few podcasts out on these topics as well.

Deferred

Prediction: I think more students will be deferred this year by selective schools than they have in the past. Keep in mind enrollment managers are doing exactly what their job title says: managing enrollment (you come here for the deep stuff, I know).

Colleges are closely, and quite nervously, watching their spring enrollment numbers. What will retention look like if students were disappointed with their fall experience on campus, online, or in some hybrid delivery mode? If they take an additional financial hit, they will likely be looking to build an even bigger first-year class for the summer or fall of 2021.

Additionally, they have lots of questions about how to predict this year’s admitted student behavior:

  • Will yield go down as a result of test score optional policies?
  • Will international students be able to receive visas at pre-pandemic rates?
  • Will the financial fallout of Covid-19 deteriorate yield of domestic students?

All of this means they will likely defer a higher percentage of early applicants in order to wait and see what they can learn about vaccines, infection rates, economic recovery… you know, little stuff like that.

What does being deferred mean?  

It means maybe, hold onwe’re not surewe’d like to see more. Better than No? Yes. Ideal? Nope.

Being deferred means you have more waiting to do, and that is not easy or fun. This year more than ever before, though, I want to urge you to finish the drill. More defers does not necessarily mean more admits in the spring, but in many cases I think it will. And that is likely true from the waitlist too, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  

You are likely going to need to submit another application or two. If you’ve already got this covered, that’s great. If not, then good news—many great schools have deadlines in January. Look for colleges that interest you who have higher admit rates and lower academic profiles than the one(s) that deferred you.

What should you do?  

First, read the letter, subsequent emails, and portal instructions closely. Then do what they say.

You are going to have some more work to do. Inevitably, you will need to send in fall grades, so finish this semester strong. Colleges that defer you will want to see how you’ve done in a challenging senior schedule (especially an abnormal junior spring term), or if your upward grade trend will continue, or how you are adjusting based on responsibilities outside the classroom. You may need to write an additional essay, have an online interview, or complete a form indicating continued interest or discussing updates on your fall activities.

What does being deferred NOT mean?  

It does not mean they are questioning your ability, talent, intelligence or potential match for their school. I understand we all desire instant gratification, but don’t miss the fact that the admission process can teach you some lifelong lessons (for example, some things are worth waiting for; some things do not happen your first time out; sometimes getting put on hold gives you a chance to reflect).

While both words start with “De,” being deferred does not mean you are denied. If a school did not think you were competitive or a good fit, they would have denied you. This sounds harsh but it’s true. Disappointed? Understood. 2020 has been a clinic in disappointment, so I feel you. But 2020 has also reminded us about patience, seeing the positives, and keeping perspective. You got this.

What should you AVOID doing? 

Please do not take being deferred as code for “try harder” by sending 18 additional letters of recommendation, stalking admission counselors on social media, going to see a fortune teller, or getting a tattoo of four-leaf clovers + college logo on your back.

In my opinion, particularly based on the enrollment uncertainty I described above, you should not write off a school you have strong interest in at this point in the cycle. Hold on, send us some stuff, tell us more– you can do that. Unless you have gotten into another college that is a better match for you, then I strongly encourage you to see this through.

Want to know more about being deferred? Read on. And on. And on.

Next week we will delve into what it means to be denied admission.