The headache grows more intense each year.
Spring brings ever-swelling floods of applications for admission to Yale. Edward S. Noyes, Chairman of the Yale Board of Admissions, annually enjoys the dubious pleasure of seeing his good, solid efforts multiply into additional efforts.
For last spring, Yale drew a record number of applicants, breaking the record of the preceding year. And to make the job of the Admissions Office even more difficult, the pyramiding number of applicants comes hand in hand with a decreasing Yale student body.
In 1952, over 3,800 men filed applications for a class of 1025. In 1951, 3,213 men sought admission into a class of 1,169. This is to be compared with a total of 1,359 applicants in 1941, for a class of 941.
Both Yale and Harvard admissions officers face equal difficulties, however.
Comparative figures, for example, reveal many similarities between the Yale and Harvard classes of 1955--and a great many striking differences.
Both schools drew approximately 3,200 applicants; both wound up with classes of about the same size--Harvard, with 1,150 men, has 19 fewer students than Yale for that class. Scholarship aid went to 26.9 percent of the Harvard class, and to 26 percent of the Yale.
But here many of the similarities end. Eli admissions men show a strong leaning towards "white shoe" boys 56 percent of Yale '55 attended private schools. This figure is copped only by Princeton's 60 percent prep school student body. On the other hand, only 43.3 percent of Harvard '55 went to private schools.
Harvard Cuts New England Percentage
Geographically, it is evident that Harvard is concentrating on decreasing the number of men from the New England area, and in slightly raising the number from the Middle Atlantic, Mid-West, South; and Far West regions. Between the classes of '54 to '55, New England representation at Harvard dropped from 44.4 percent to 38.1 percent, while every other region rose nearly two percent.
Yale has tried to keep its largest geographical group--the Middle Atlantic--between 35 and 40 percent of the school. Last year, 37.8 percent of the freshman class came from this region. There are considerably fewer Elis from New England than at Harvard--28.6 percent, slightly more from the Mid-West and South, and fewer from the Far West.
The entire admissions set-up, at Yale as at Harvard, has undergone a tremendous revolution. It has changed from the complacent, easy-going attitude of a quarter century ago, to the hustling, serious, intense business it is now.
Ivy League admissions officers can no longer sit back and wait for the top students throughout the country to file applications. Today they must wage an active competition, they must sell their product and recruit interested men.
A Brief View
1929--Yale sets up Regional Scholarships program.
1933--Introduction of Yale College system accompanied by the establishment of the Bursary Fund, a "self-help" program for all.
1934--Harvard initiates broad National Scholarships program.
1944--Committee on Enrollment and Scholarships set up at Yale. First liaison work between administration, alumni. Scholarship program expanded, alumni committees activated, handbook printed, short film made.
1949-51--Harvard intensifies admissions program. Stronger alumni cooperation plan pushed, as Schools and Scholarships Committees are remanned. Financial aid program expanded with more scholarship funds, increased student employment. Handbook for alumni released. "Invitation to Harvard" film extensively used.
1952--Yale plans revision of handbook for alumni.
1952--Bender becomes Dean of Admissions, Scholarships, and Financial Aid as office is centralized.
The enormous growth in the volume of applications is mostly accountable to this active new credo. But a substantial increase also flows in and must be seriously considered because of the College Board's decision in 1951 to eliminate the preference rule. Where formerly men were required to indicate the order in which they were choosing schools, now they list the schools in any manner.
Preference Counted Heavily
While the preference rule was in effect, Yale and Princeton leaned quite heavily on it. These schools implied that any preference lower than a "one" or a "two" would practically eliminate the candidate for admission. But, in the dark as to where a student's loyalties lie, the Yale Admission Office is now forced to tentatively admit more students, and to count on a greater number of withdrawals.
This has been a vital factor. While withdrawals amounted to approximately 19 percent before the preference system was done away with 38 percent of those accepted into the Yale class of 1956 declined to matriculate.
The roots of the admission problem are found in the late 1920's and through the '30's. Until this time, enough applications poured into Harvard, Princeton, and Yale offices from all parts of the country to keep officials sums, and satisfied. But, when excellent state universities like California and Michigan, and private institutions like Stanford and Oberlin, began to grow in academic stature, they drained off a large number of students.
Yale made the first move, with its Regional Scholarship program. Harvard countered five years later with National Scholarships. Armed with these new weapons, both schools coasted for a while. But during the war years, Yale again got the jump on Harvard and surged into the lead with its vigorous admissions program. It remained in front until Harvard began its revitalization three years ago.
Three Steps in Transition
Yale's steps in this revolutionizing of admissions tactics may be boiled down to three. First is the Regional Scholarship program. Designed to attract top students from every area in the nation, it was introduced in 1929. Eight regions were then designated for purposes of awarding these grants: Western; Rocky Mountain; North Central--consisting of the Mid-Western states west of the Mississippi; Great Lakes; South Central; South Eastern--including the southern seaboard states; North Eastern--made up of Pennsylvania, New York, and Southern New England; and Northern New England. Yale awards at least one of these scholarships to each district annually; most often, 25 or so are given. Donald K. Walker, Chairman of the Committee on Enrollments and Scholarships said, "Harvard came here and studied our Regionals. They were the basis for the National Scholarship set-up.
The second big step was the establishment of the Bursary Fund when the Yale Residential College system was introduced in 1933. Students may now work as anything from library assistants to clerks, for 16 hours a week, and earn full board expenses. The Bursary Fund at present contains over $150,000 to be expended each year in assisting students.
Several other categories of employment are open, the biggest of which is Dining Halls. At any rate, students on scholarship are assured before entering Yale they will be given employment. Almost all of these students are expected to support themselves in order to supplement their awards.
The third major step in Eli admissions revitalization was the establishment in 1944 of the Committee on Enrollments and Scholarships. This was the key move. It established the all-important liaison between the Administration and alumni.
Members of this Committee are also on the Committee of Admissions; Noyes Chairman of the Committee on Admissions, also belongs to the Committee on Enrollment. A system of checks and balances is thereby set up, and the possibility of the whole program's getting out of hand is reduced to a minimum.
Walker's chief function as Chairman of the Committee of Enrollments is to coordinate alumni activities. Some 90 alumni committees are now operating under Yale University's scrutiny. These committees perform the ground-work of the entire admissions program. Operating in their own local areas they work in this way: they first seek out students of high promise, then interest them in Yale, interview them, encourage them to apply, and follow up on them even after they have been accepted, to make certain they will go to Yale.
These groups also submit reports on the students, which, according to Walker, are "a great help when 50 percent of your applicants also want scholarships."
In addition to the 90-odd active groups, some 100 to 120 individual representatives do "selling and recruiting" work for the admissions office. A total of almost 500 alumni are on the job.
It is chiefly due to their efforts, Walker said, that the West Coast has in recent years shown a great increase in the number of top-flight men it sends to Yale. Cities like Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Denver, have become strong "Yale towns," just as Minneapolis, Dayton, Cleveland, and Birmingham are strong "Harvard towns." "Even Boston," Walker added, "is sending more and more men here."
The Committee on Enrollment has been expanding its scholarship program so that it may bring to Yale "all the people it wants..." The University, faced with increased calls for financial aid, decided soon after the war to drastically boost appropriations to the scholarship program. Presently, $1,032,241 has been accumulated for award purposes.
Faced with nationwide competition that grew keener after the war, Yale, like Harvard, countered by stepping up its program. Harvard, although it did not begin its intensification until 1949, quickly set up administration-alumni liaison, remanned Schools and Scholarships Committees, sent men out from University Hall on field trips, and issued handbooks explaining the set-up to alumni. Yale also issued a handbook for alumni, including criteria for admissions, and information on financial aid and expenses. Noyes' office expects to revise the book shortly, in order to bring alumni up to date on the program.
Like Harvard, Yale has made a movie. It's quite a bit shorter than "Invitation to Harvard," running only 20 minutes, and it attempts to cover only a part of the college program, but Walker reports it has been an effective device.
The ever-expanding program may bring another record-breaking crop of applications to Noyes' office this Spring, as it may to Dean Bender's office. It means a great deal of work on the part of both alumni and administration--but it seems to be paying off