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Decision Over: Colleges Review Yield; Seniors Reflect

As of yesterday, many high school seniors were likely breathing a sigh of relief. After months of visiting campuses, comparing aid packages, and weighing options, May 1 was the deadline when most students finally had to decide where they will be headed to college in the fall.

Next, colleges and universities will be calculating their yield rate—the percentage of admitted students who decide to enroll. From an institutional perspective, this is an important statistic. Admission officers lobby prospective students hard to lure them to campus in hopes of improving their yield.

Fewer than half of all students admitted to a given institution accepted those offers of admission in 2009, according to the State of the College Admissions 2010 Report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling. For the fall 2009 freshman class, the average yield rate among four-year colleges and universities was 43 percent. It's a difficult job to predict yield rate and to fill the freshman classes, especially now that students are applying to more colleges.

There will still be some juggling in the months ahead as schools extend invitations from their wait lists—an increasingly popular enrollment-management tool. So, while some students may be changing their mind this month, for most, this weekend marked the end of their college search journey.

Looking back any advice for this year's junior class? Last week at our high school, I heard a panel of seniors offer their pearls of wisdom. Some echo what you'd hear from counselors; others uniquely from the students' perspective.
Some highlights:

  • Start early. Write essays in the summer. Senior year is not a joke.

  • Visit colleges when class is in session (but not during exams) to get a realistic feel.

  • Colleges want to learn about more than your grades and test scores. Even if it's something quirky, such as yo-yoing, send in a video—it may show your dedication.

  • If you have the option of an interview, go for it. It likely can only help you.

  • Incorporate knowledge of school into the essay, such as classes you want to take.

  • Don't pin all your hopes on one school.

  • Pick a safety school that you really like.

  • Make a list of 7-10 schools and stick with it.

  • Apply somewhere "early action" or rolling admission so you can at least know you got in somewhere midyear. It can alleviate some of the stress as you watch all your friends sharing their news on Facebook.

Congratulations, seniors. It's OK to don those college sweatshirts now. We want to see where you are going.

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