Early Decision Guided by Rankings

by PATRICK MATTIMORE | 1/9/06 6:00am

To the Editor:

There is a simple explanation as to why Dartmouth has not joined Harvard, Yale and Stanford in replacing binding early decision with an early action program (Verbum Ultimum, Jan. 6). Accepted applicants at Dartmouth reject Dartmouth at much higher rates than do accepted applicants at Dartmouth's higher ranked cousins. Dartmouth's yield -- the rate at which accepted applicants attend a school -- is around 50 percent while Yale's, at the time when the school adopted an early action program, was around two thirds.

Until recently, U.S. News and World Report used yield as one measure in their rankings. Obviously, a college's yield drops when that school no longer requires its early decision accepted candidates to attend.

The Ivy League colleges and a handful of other prestigious universities are in a high stakes competition for top students. Harvard, Yale and Stanford, with the highest yields (and the top rankings) can appear to be acting beneficently while maintaining their places at the top of the food chain.

Dartmouth cannot afford to institute early action unless she is prepared for a significant drop in yield.