Early applications show increased diversity

Jon Victor

November 19, 2015

While the number of students applying through Yale’s Single-Choice Early Action program remained stable this year, the pool was more diverse, with more applicants from underrepresented groups.

Yale received 4,662 early applications for the class of 2020, a marginal drop from the 4,693 early applications received last year. But Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said the University attracted more minority students this year, with the largest increase seen among African-American applicants. The number of applicants who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents and self-identify as African-American has grown nearly 8 percent since last year and over 31 percent since 2013.

The early applicant pool also reflects increased geographical diversity. Applications from the South and Southwestern sections of the U.S. increased on the whole from last year, with a 20 percent and 19 percent increase in the number of applications from Texas and Georgia, respectively. The applicants come from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and 88 foreign countries.

Still, Yale’s early application numbers have not seen a major increase since 2013, while the application pools of its peer institutions have continued to grow in size over the past two years. Princeton had a 9.4 percent increase to 4,164 in early action applications this year, while Harvard’s numbers skyrocketed last year to 5,919 from 4,692, though its numbers for the class of 2020 have not yet been released. The University of Pennsylvania also saw a record high number of early decision applicants, with a 2.5 percent increase. The other Ivy League schools have yet to release their early action or early decision numbers.

Though Yale’s early action pool hit an all-time peak of 5,556 in 2008, Director of Outreach and Recruitment Mark Dunn ’07 said the admissions office is less interested in the total quantity of applications received than their quality and diversity of backgrounds, experiences and interests. He cited the admissions office’s outreach efforts as possible reasons for the increase in applications from underrepresented minority groups. Those efforts include the Yale Ambassadors program, which sends current students to high schools to speak with standout students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, and the Multicultural Open House, which invites students and their families to campus to learn about Yale’s academic and cultural offerings.

“Although it is impossible to draw direct causal relationships between specific outreach programs [and] the students who choose to apply, I continue to believe that programs like the Yale Ambassadors, the Multicultural Open House and our targeted mailing campaigns to high-achieving low-income students have a positive effect on encouraging students from all backgrounds to apply to Yale,” Dunn said.

College admissions consultants interviewed said minor fluctuations in Yale’s application numbers, such as this year’s change, are insignificant. Michael Goran, director of California-based private education consulting firm Ivy Select, said these numbers vary from year to year and are not indicative of any long-term trends in student interest in Yale.

“The Yale brand is out there and it’s just a matter of who wants to apply in that given year,” Goran said.

Brian Taylor, director of Ivy Coach, a New York-based college consulting firm, said the increased diversity of the pool shows that Yale’s outreach efforts to minority students have been effective. He also noted that a school’s early application numbers are important for college rankings such as the list published by U.S. News and World Report, which factors acceptance rate into its rankings. He pointed out that Yale’s early acceptance rate has increased in each of the last three years. The early acceptance rate for the class of 2017 was 14.4 percent, while for the class of 2019 it was 16.0 percent.

Parke Muth, former associate dean of admissions at the University of Virginia and an independent college consultant, also said the numbers reveal a successful outreach strategy by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions for recruiting racially and geographically diverse students. However, he noted that because the early application pool is relatively small, percentage changes in demographics may not be as informative as they would be with a larger sample size.

“It does seem like the efforts on [the admissions office’s] part … demonstrate that they are very interested in recruiting students who may not have previously looked at the Ivies as a destination,” Muth said. Developments like increased engagement of regional admissions officers in the areas they cover may have contributed to the increase in diversity, he said.

Muth added that while Yale seems to be making an effort to reach a wider applicant pool, it is focusing its outreach on students who may have a legitimate chance at admittance, rather than using outreach as a way to artificially boost its application numbers. He said some universities have drawn criticism in recent years for sending promotional materials to students who are not qualified enough be admitted.

Admissions decisions for early action applicants will be released in mid-December.