Fit, Yield, Match

For those of you not engaged in admissions work at all or only tangentially, it is what we in higher education call “yield time.”  Admissions decisions made, letters and acceptance packets out, and follow-ups initiated from both sides.  In this post’s title, I have three of the words that matter most at this time of year and will address them below.

“Fit,” of course, is also infamous in faculty and senior leader ob searches, not just prospective student school choice.  Parents and students are looking for the “best fit” schools and hoping for a “reach” school or large scholarship along the way.  Admissions officers are also concerned with “fit” at many colleges and universities, asking how this applicants will fit in on campus, what will they add to the community, etc.  Fit is not infrequently part of the calculus of the admissions decision from admit/waitlist/deny to scholarship.

Yield is the name of the season in recruitment for a reason.  Of the admitted students, what percentage will a particular school yield?  At a school like my current one, where we admit into major programs, we are all asking “did we admit too few in history education this year to make the cohort?” or “did we admit too many in nursing for the number of seats?”  These concerns impact not just those engaged in admissions work but deans, faculty, and leadership (who then must respond to the concerns and problems).  We all know the tension of this season before the traditional deposit deadline of May 1.

But what do I mean by “match”?  Well, as student demographics change, as traditional admission markers like SATs change, how do we know how well we have matched new students to what we, as an institution, can offer?  How can we best meet those new students?  And what happens when we don’t?  Who could have done what differently?

This post is inspired by a conversation I had earlier this week about retention.  It was particularly of our international students but also recent immigrant students and those who may not “match” the idea some folks have in their minds of who a student is on our campus.  I said, “meet them where they are but first we have to find out where they are and plan for the need to meet them.”  The colleague with whom I spoke thought better course matching and assessment would help, but for me, teaching–like recruitment and like international education–is a people business, and no data analytics can match the value of meeting, knowing, and talking to students.  I am just a firm believer that their stories matter more than their numbers in a spreadsheet.