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Provost Presentation, 1

Provost Dukes Love gave a presentation (pdf) on “Access and Affordability in Higher Education” at the Alumni Leadership weekend in May. Thanks to popular demand, we will spend this week going through some highlights. Background reading: this 2016 overview of similar material from the previous provost, Will Dudley ’89, and our 2017 series about the Equality of Opportunity project. Day 1.

Although dual y-axis charts are evil, this one provides some useful time series.

Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 1.36.43 AM

Like all of Gaul, the last 60 years of applications to Williams can be divided into three parts. First, we have the single sex era, with 1,000 to 2,000 applications and an impressive yield of over 50%. Second, the initial 30 years of co-education, with applications mostly stable between 4,000 and 5,000. Third, the current era, with much higher raw application numbers, stable yield and falling admission rates. Comments:

1) Did Williams really yield around 65% in the mid-1960s? That seems implausible. Williams has been losing out to Harvard/Yale/Princeton for decades. I doubt that the 60s were much different. Perhaps Williams used more early decision? Perhaps there was more information sharing, allowing Williams to reject students who it knew would turn it down?

2) The shown yield rate is highly misleading. Students admitted early decision should not be included. They have no (meaningful) choice so it makes no sense to include them in a yield calculation. (Doing so also makes it harder to compare our yield with our competitors who don’t use early decision.) Yield should be measured only from the regular decision admittees. Doing this leaves our yield closer to 30%.

3) Stacked bar charts are not very helpful, especially with this color scheme. (Who can see the change in class size in the light green at the bottom?) Line graphs would be better. A better design for the same data:

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#1 Comment By abl On June 11, 2018 @ 1:52 pm

Yield should be measured only from the regular decision admittees. Doing this leaves our yield closer to 30%.

No. ED applicants are, definitionally, a self-selected group who prefer Williams. Sure, it is likely that if Williams went to RD-only applications, some (or even many) of the ED admits–who under the current system all go to Williams–would matriculate elsewhere. But I don’t think there’s any reasonable question that the yield rates of this population of students would be far, far higher than the yield rates of the current RD pool if there was no binding ED.

Comparing the yield rate of schools with binding ED programs to schools without is an imperfect comparison for the reasons you mention. But it’s a better comparison than the one that you suggest.

#2 Comment By Whitney Wilson ’90 On June 11, 2018 @ 1:55 pm

Thanks for this series, DDF.

Did Williams really yield around 65% in the mid-1960s? That seems implausible. Williams has been losing out to Harvard/Yale/Princeton for decades. I doubt that the 60s were much different. Perhaps Williams used more early decision? Perhaps there was more information sharing, allowing Williams to reject students who it knew would turn it down?

It wouldn’t surprise me if the yield in the 60’s was much higher than now. With so much less information available, the people who knew about and applied to Williams could easily have been the ones who were more likely to accept an offer of admission, such as legacies.

Students admitted early decision should not be included. They have no (meaningful) choice so it makes no sense to include them in a yield calculation. (Doing so also makes it harder to compare our yield with our competitors who don’t use early decision.) Yield should be measured only from the regular decision admittees. Doing this leaves our yield closer to 30%.

I disagree with you on this one. Those applying Early Decision are essentially choosing Williams over other schools (albeit with imperfect information on whether they would even have a choice). Given the large chunk of the class admitted via Early Decision, excluding them from the yield calculations would distort that value pretty significantly.

I agree the graph is not the best presentation of the data.

#3 Comment By Anon88 On June 11, 2018 @ 3:19 pm

Regarding Question 1: I wonder if the high yield was also related to coordination with high schools – particularly East Coast Prep Schools. I’ve heard stories of how there was a “Yale List” and a “Williams List” and that Headmasters and college admissions would coordinate and simply tell boys not only where to apply but where they where going. I suspect boys on the “Harvard List” at Andover didn’t apply to Williams (and vice-versa – no reason to apply to Harvard if you knew you wouldn’t get in).

#4 Comment By ZSD On June 11, 2018 @ 3:52 pm

Take a look at geo distribution 50s/60s v latest. Alum88s conjecture may be borne out by stat data as well as empirical reminiscence of the olden days and how stuff worked.