Applications and Yield; More is (often) Less

(Courtesy of http://blog.nextsociety.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/quality_vs_quantity.jpg)

(Courtesy of http://blog.nextsociety.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/quality_vs_quantity.jpg)

In the changing of the guard for Admissions and Enrollment offices, increasing application numbers is a very common first step. Is it really the solution that it gets billed as though? In a recent article on The Chronicle of Higher Education, there was a write up on Drexel University’s decision to buck the trend of increasing application numbers, and turn instead to driving their yield rates. As they were succeeding in increasing their application numbers dramatically, they witnessed their yield rates decreasing. More to the point, the 6-year completion rate was falling to below 70% (a relative low for them).

It sounds like a “Everybody’s thinking it, but nobody’s saying it” sort of revelation, but Drexel decided to, instead of making applications more accessible, return to the kind of applications that applicants actually have to fill out. They believed that the pre-filled applications, which were sent with prospects’ basic information already plugged in, were bringing in students with less than average affinity for Drexel. Somewhat humorously, it was observed that some applicants did not even know what city Drexel was in. Knowing what we do about student retention and graduation, institutional fit is a serious influencer, and the “fast app” approach appeared to seriously compromise the affinity of the student body at Drexel. That reflects in both the yield numbers and the retention numbers, as Eric Hoover writes for The Chronicle.

Drexel made a tough decision to forego the fast apps, accept the inevitable losses in application numbers, and immediately saw the yield rate bounce back up (to the highest it’s been since 2009!). The article (linked) is available to subscribers of The Chronicle of Higher Education, so if you subscribe to The Chronicle, consider checking it out. It was a great read, about a really compelling topic.

What are your experiences with app-increasing initiatives? Have you seen any noteworthy impacts on your yield or retention rates? We’d love to hear about it!

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