January 30, 2012

Which are first choice colleges and which are safety schools?

USN&WR lists colleges by yield ratings (number of accepted applicants who show up in the fall divided by number of applicants accepted the previous spring). Not surprisingly, Harvard is #1, but what's #2, well ahead of #3 Stanford? Hint: A man much in the news started out at #3, graduated from #2, then earned two degrees from #1.

Many of the other highest yield colleges are red state public colleges like the #5 University of Alaska, Fairbanks (where Edward, the immortal vampire in Twilight, claims to be headed once he graduates from high school, presumably either because it's far from everybody they know, or because it's dark half the year so he won't sparkle -- I didn't really get into Twilight enough to figure that out.)

A lot of famous colleges, like Duke, Rice, Cal Tech, and Northwestern, are treated by many applicants as safety schools, giving them lower yields than much less prestigious schools.

This is tied into Charles Murray's view of changes in American culture. It used to be that almost all colleges were regional. Stanford was for smart, affluent kids from California. Mitt Romney attending Stanford for a year was part of a fairly new push by Stanford to get elite kids from "back East" (as we Californians like to vaguely handwave about everyplace from Denver to Maine).

A regional college system is more conducive to marrying your high school sweetheart. For example, when young Mitt was a freshman at Stanford in 1964, he frequently flew home on weekends to see a beautiful high school girl, Ann, to whom he's still married.

Something like this was an underlying theme of George Lucas's 1973 movie American Graffiti: In 1962, Richard Dreyfuss isn't as sure as his best friend Ron Howard is that he wants to leave podunky Modesto, CA the next morning for a famous college back east. (By the way, I haven't seen American Graffiti since I was about 16, and we've all undergone multiple revisions in our views of Lucas since then. Way back then, it struck me as a tremendous movie, but I was 16, so what do I know? Does it hold up?)

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

"number of applicants accepted divided by number who actually show up"

other way around

Steve Sailer said...

Thanks.

Inkraven said...

Your blog will be infinitely better if you never make another Twilight reference.

Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that everyone that gets into Cornell knows that Harvard and Brown are better, but I'm not sure that everyone that gets into U of Alaska knows that Michigan and Cal are supposedly better schools.

Maya said...

"Your blog will be infinitely better if you never make another Twilight reference."

No wait! I didn't finish (or progress past the first couple of chapters of) the first book because it was just unbearable, so I want to ask if they ever explain why it took Edward ten decades to complete high school. Wasn't he over a 100 years old or some such? Can the love of a good woman really motivate someone who's been forced to repeat a year that many times to really buckle down and finally pass Algebra II (or whatever it was that held him back all those years)?

Maya said...

"I'm pretty sure that everyone that gets into Cornell knows that Harvard and Brown are better, but I'm not sure that everyone that gets into U of Alaska knows that Michigan and Cal are supposedly better schools."

A lot of people who get into U of Alaska, Fairbanks have staying close to home as their first priority. I spent a summer working in that area, and learned a lot about the residents. There is a large Native American and a large Mormon community up there. Both are very family oriented. As for the rest of the Alaskans, it's a special, beloved place for many of them, and most, I've talked to, don't wish to leave for a prolonged period of time. That said, there aren't many options for higher education in Alaska, so they go for what's available.

Anonymous said...

"I'm pretty sure that everyone that gets into Cornell knows that Harvard and Brown are better, but I'm not sure that everyone that gets into U of Alaska knows that Michigan and Cal are supposedly better schools."

So people smart enough to get into Michigan and Cal are choosing Alaska instead. That's the only way your logic works - they have to get accepted to Michigan and Cal, but choose Alaska, so they bolster Alaska's yield.

Anonymous said...

I assume you mean BYU?

Of course, Romney did get into Stanford and attended there prior to to his mission.

sunbeam said...

The payoff might be better at Harvard.

But if you are into Science, Math, or Engineering the student body of Caltech are like gods.

Just my take anyway, but if you told a group of engineers or scientists you got your degree at Harvard the attitude would be something like "whatever."

If you said Caltech it would be like "WOW, what's it like?"

Caltech is harder to get into than MIT. Hard for me to think it is a fallback school. I'd be more likely to think you were soft if you got into Caltech, then went to Harvard.

Steve Sailer said...

Caltech is harder to get out of than Harvard.

Jon Claerbout said...

I went to MIT 1956-60 and we all thought CalTech had higher standards.

Icepick said...

American Graffiti holds up very well. It's holds up so well that one becomes convinced that Lucas was replaced by a robot running poor AI or pod person shortly thereafter.

Al said...

"everyone that gets into Cornell knows that Harvard and Brown are better"

Cornell vs. Brown is highly debatable.

"Just my take anyway, but if you told a group of engineers or scientists you got your degree at Harvard the attitude would be something like "whatever."

If you said Caltech it would be like "WOW, what's it like?"

Caltech is harder to get into than MIT. Hard for me to think it is a fallback school. I'd be more likely to think you were soft if you got into Caltech, then went to Harvard."

I'm a CS person, and I hold the schools in roughly equal esteem. Maybe Harvard is a little higher.

Unknown said...

The single most subversive piece of literature ever unleashed on the American public was the 'The Official Preppie Handbook'.

Auntie Analogue said...

In two ways 'American Graffiti' holds up.

In earlier teen movies adult authority held sway over teen characters' options. 'American Graffiti' was the first film in which all the action characters are teens, in which those teen characters resolved their own conflicts and chose their own destinies. This "first" cements 'American Graffiti's' cinematic-cultural bona fides.

The second way 'American Graffiti' holds up is perishable - and that is as a totem of, and especially for members of, the boomer generation. Once boomers will have died off, 'American Graffiti' will form only a palimpsest of nostalgia value for post-boomers.

The 1950's-1960's car culture central to 'American Graffiti's' structure, plot development, and dénouement has passed into history. The rice-burner mini-cult of today, which is itself already fading, is a pale echo of the all-pervasive big V-8 down to VW Beetle (and, indeed, even down to Toad's Vespa) car culture of 'American Graffiti's' period. Since that muscle car heyday, automotive culture has atomized into a kaleidoscopic variants, each one with its peculiar and insular culture, almost all of which are not street-legal and are instead conducted on specialized off-street courses (drift racing, ATV's, NASCAR, dirt track, gymkhana, Baha-type endurance, low-rider culture, &c.). Further, an increasing percentage of teens, and even of twenty-somethings, now eschew driving, even to the point of not bothering to learn to drive or to secure a driver's license - for which there are many disincetives, such as the higher cost of vehicles and insurance, the environmentalist propaganda with which kids have been inculcated since the late-60's, the urban-cred-"cool" of mass transportation advocacy and patronage, &c.

'American Graffiti' also holds a special place in boomer hearts because boomers had watched Ron Howard when he was the Ronny Howard of 'The Andy Griffith Show' - so that the film's coming-of-age vibe will never resonate for post-boomers with anything remotely like the verisimilitude with which it resonates in boomers' hearts.

A boomer myself, I'll say that when I saw 'American Graffiti' in its first theatrical run I felt it was just a fine fun movie, but whenever I've since seen it, it just makes me ache with longing for a time that was, in truth, simpler and in which not just teens, but all Americans, were freer and much more in control of our individual destinies than we now are - and back then we were united in a universal American culture which has since become Balkanized, atomized.

One film that didn't hold up upon its release and has since submerged into lasting disrepute is the wretched sequel 'More American Graffiti.' Its only value is in its exposition of some of the ways in which Americans began to Balkanize-atomize - indeed, the irritating visual fragmentation of its split-screen sequences are an unintentional, yet apt, metaphor for that very atomization: we, and our entire country and culture and future propsects, have suffered the ill-consequences of "different strokes for different" multi-culti-diverse and market-segment-targetted "folks." Whereas in 'American Graffiti' we saw distinctly indvidual and individualistic characters within a homogeneous culture, we see nowadays the heterogeneous grimness of groups divided by the histrionics of identity politics - and this is something that will simply never occur to post-boomers, it will be forever lost to them, because they've never enjoyed the great advantages and blessings of living in a homogeneous culture.

guest007 said...

Steve,

Schools like Rice have a hard time managing their yields since they change every year. Harvard and Stanford know what their yields are doing to be but schools like Rice are not as certain since they are safety schools for some students (more likely to produce accepted students who do not enroll) and a reach school(students who are very likely to enroll).

There is also another term for the students who enroll, send in deposits but just do not show up at freshman orientation. I doubt there are any at Harvard but schools like Michigan estimate about 5% of the freshmen class will not show up.

Anonymous said...

American graffiti, well worth watching again, Stevie my friend. If anything just because of the amazing soundtrack.

Gene Berman said...

Auntie Analogue:

That is one damn fine movie review, with whose points I agree (despite having not the foggiest as to the meaning of "palimpsest"; don't know and don't wanna know).

My best friend of the day ('53, Philly suburbs)) got stopped by a cop in a neighboring township for drag-racing in a '37 Chevvy with 10 passengers (including rumble seat). The cop was particularly amused by the Schlitz beer label affixed to the lower-left winshield where was supposed to be the vehicle inspection sticker.

In the spirit of the day, the cop told my friend that he and a friend (and their dates) would be showing up the very next day, properly dressed, with presents, for a buddy of his--another cop--who was getting married. They did.

I don't know quite how to express my view of those years--of that relatively short period of history. It was, as you say, a more homogenous culture. But I also think it was one in which true individuality was far less artificially constrained.

Until I saw AG, I never knew from where Wolfman Jack broadcast; I'd only heard him on truckers' late-night radio now and again while hitch-hiking.

Still best friends but somewhat less adventurous. About the most exciting stuff we get up to is cut-throat pinochle once a week.

morleysafer said...

Alaska-Fairbanks has a surprisingly good student radio station.

The Brown radio station sounds like a joint venture of Ryan Seacrest and Sumner Redstone.

Munch said...

To Auntie Analogue
+1

Anonymous said...

American Graffiti is pure boomer nostalgia fluff, and if you have no fondness for the period it will bore you to tears as it do to me.

FredR said...

"Does it hold up?"

Just saw it for the first time last year and loved it.

Anonymous said...

A regional college system is more conducive to marrying your high school sweetheart. For example, when young Mitt was a freshman at Stanford in 1964, he frequently flew home on weekends to see a beautiful high school girl, Ann, to whom he's still married.

Huh? Unless your pop was Governor of Michigan and the ex-CEO of American Motors, "frequently flying home on weekends" from San Jose to Detroit was not within the average Stanford undergrad's budget in 1964, even if Mitt didn't need beer money.

I've been surprised to find so many people who have forgotten, even temporarily, Romney's Michigan background. They seem to just assume he must have sort of grown up in Greater Deseret and moved to Massachusetts as adult.

Rainforest Giant said...

Steve,

Except for the CGI'd hookers, alien robots, some reediting of crucial points in the narrative and terrible added dialogue, it is the same movie you saw years ago.

beowulf said...

"whenever I've since seen it, it just makes me ache with longing for a time..."

Teddy told me that in Greek, "nostalgia" literally means "the pain from an old wound" . . . It's a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone..."
http://youtu.be/yWyLaXCV2_s

Speaking of George Lucas, his new movie Red Tails is phenomenal. Best aerial combat sequences since, well, the Wright Brothers.

Anonymous said...

Some schools actually manage their yields -- e.g., by not admitting students they think are unlikely to actually enroll.

Princeton was caught doing so in a revealed-preferences study of student choices. The study used an Elo-style analysis that analyzed each decision as a "match" between two schools. H was #1 but Caltech was pretty close to #2 in their data (the other top schools were Yale and Stanford).

http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2004/10/revealed-preferences-and-college.html

I'm not sure if the yield number quoted by USN is correct. If it is, things have changed in the last few years.

Peter said...

@ Auntie Analogue -
Sorry to nitpick a very insightful comment, but I must point out that the main characters in American Graffiti were not members of the baby boom generation. As the movie was set in 1962, and the characters were about 18 years old, they would have been born in 1944 or 1945 - a couple years prior to the generation's beginning.

Anonymous said...

"The single most subversive piece of literature ever unleashed on the American public was the 'The Official Preppie Handbook'."

On a hunch...

Yep:

http://blogs.forward.com/sisterhood-blog/tags/lisa-birnbach/

Dahinda said...

American Graffiti ushered in all of the 1950's worship crap in the 1970's. Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley came out of this. This led to all of the Baby Boomer exceptionalism, self worshipping and nostalgia that us future generations had to live with and get overshadowed by. BTW, I never understood, in Laverne and Shirley, why a bunch of people with Brooklyn accents were living in Milwaukee?

Anonymous said...

Re AG - whenever I've since seen it, it just makes me ache with longing for a time that was, in truth, simpler and in which not just teens, but all Americans, were freer and much more in control of our individual destinies than we now are

God yes, and Im not a boomer and Im British but it makes me feel that too.

Thursday said...

American Graffiti has lots of atmosphere, but doesn't have any particularly memorable characters or a particularly memorable story. It is a well done nostalgia piece, but kind of boring.

Paul Mendez said...

Further, an increasing percentage of teens, and even of twenty-somethings, now eschew driving, even to the point of not bothering to learn to drive or to secure a driver's license - for which there are many disincetives, such as the higher cost of vehicles and insurance, the environmentalist propaganda with which kids have been inculcated since the late-60's, the urban-cred-"cool" of mass transportation advocacy and patronage, &c.

I think another reason is today's traffic congestion and laws mandating kids use car seats.

Urban young people today associate "driving" with crawling along at 25 mph while strapped into an uncomfortable chair listening to your parents curse at the other drivers.

Are kids in the sticks still into cars?

Dean Wormer said...

not sure that everyone that gets into U of Alaska knows that Michigan and Cal are supposedly better schools.

That is selection at work. Besides, very few U of AK students could realistically get admitted to UM or Cal.

Native Americans in AK would have the best chance as a group. It would be nearly impossible for a middle to lower class whites who dominate AK to get admitted at Cal or UM as out of state applicants.

The students at Brown are noticeably more elite and intellectual than Cornell. Cornell is the Rodney Dangerfield of the Ivy League, thus the character of Andy on The Office.

CalTech, MIT and nearly every top big University STEM department are relatively competitive places where even the very smart get humbled. Very few places like Harvard have similarly academically rigorous and competitive liberal arts studies.

In nearly every case, I'd advise my child to go to Harvard over CalTech for the greater leverage their intelligence would give them in undergrad and the career doors it opens.

playin' the game said...

I'm glad you brought up American Graffiti. In my "Masculinist Cliches" course at Stanford last semester, we were asked whether the choice of the Edsel in this photo was intentionally phallic. I said it was a metaphor for impending rape, and got an A.

http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.arts-stew.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Ron-Howard-and-Cindy-Williams-American-Graffiti-1973.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.arts-stew.com/%3Fattachment_id%3D1474&h=394&w=521&sz=37&tbnid=7c_FBB_lFqUgiM:&tbnh=102&tbnw=135&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dcindy%2Bwilliams%2Bamerican%2Bgraffiti%26tbm%3Disch%26tbo%3Du&zoom=1&q=cindy+williams+american+graffiti&docid=OMd0rp5qYaWypM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=zj4oT7STPKrYiQLLtYGpAQ&ved=0CEMQ9QEwBA&dur=1236

jody said...

cal tech is not a safety school. it is one of the hardest places to get into in the world.

"I'm a CS person, and I hold the schools in roughly equal esteem. Maybe Harvard is a little higher."

i definitely do not. harvard is not on my radar as far as computer science goes. i don't think it sucks or anything, but it's no leader in that field. but different strokes for different folks. maybe you've had lots of strong experiences with harvard computer science people.

i don't think of the ivys, pretty much ever, when it comes to engineering stuff. certainly there are a few outposts - the cornell mars rover team. but when i think ivys, i think, those are places for scientists, doctors, and lawyers to attend.

jody said...

i used to hang out with this guy who got his undergrad at trinity, in texas, and who was the starting nose tackle for the trinity football team. back in 2001 he was one of the only guys writing for microsoft's nascent ipad predecessor, tablet PC. computers located in india kept stealing his code, so he eventually stopped publishing it freely. at the time he was employed by freemarkets, a startup based in pittsburgh.

he was so far ahead in that and some other areas of software that harvard invited him to lecture there. i don't think it reflected too well on harvard, having some 26 year old former football player with a computer science degree from trinity, coming in to explain to the harvard computer science faculty, that future of software would be mobile computing.

MZ and FB will forever sort of be associated with harvard, but the harvard CS department had nothing to do with it. he received no instruction from the faculty on it. it wasn't a collaboration with any of the staff, or a graduate project in conjuction with tenured professors, or anything like that at all. it was something he did as a freshman, totally independent of the curriculum.

something relevant might be like, BASIC, developed at dartmouth.

jody said...

derp. he was the starting center, not the nose tackle. now i know i'm getting old. starting to forget stuff from over a decade ago.

Jack said...

Cornell is a better school than Brown in just about every respect: average SAT is very slightly lower, but that's only because the student body is much larger. Much better sports, campus, and selection of majors. Plus a law and medical school.

Anonymous said...

"Are kids in the sticks still into cars?"

Driving used to be fun when I was younger. Of course, gas was 89-99 cents a gallon, absurd development had not gridlocked traffic for a hundred miles around every major city, and there was still money for road repairs. I drive more now, for occupational reasons, but I enjoy it about 3000 times less. It's just awful.

Propeller Island said...

Nostalgia piece. It's funny. American Graffiti was made in 1973 and set in 1962. It's like a new 2012 movie set in 2001. Would a movie about 2001 generate nostalgia? Ha-ha. Except for TVs and cellphones, no one would be able to tell the difference.

Anonymous said...

"Speaking of George Lucas, his new movie Red Tails is phenomenal. Best aerial combat sequences since, well, the Wright Brothers."

Is it computer generated? Top Gun was good because they had actual flying sequences. So much stuff today is just computer generated, even things like El tracks in NY in a movie I can't remember now.

Anonymous said...

Caltech student body

Undergraduate students:
585 men
382 women

Graduate students:
857 men
351 women

Is there any AA for women at Caltech? I have no idea. Just asking someone who might know.

Anonymous said...

I was an alumni rep for Caltech for several years. In two cases, high school students I advised turned down Caltech for Princeton or Harvard. In neither case was it about prestige. In both cases, it was raw fear that they wouldn't make it through Tech with good grades.

Caltech is so tiny that its accept list is only students who are academically top at other schools. The same is not true for other top schools. Hence a weaker student who gets admitted to an elite will never turn it down -- he just won the lottery. There are no such lottery winners at Caltech. People who only score 600 in Math and do Art or wanna run for Congress just never get in. And there's no AA.

Of course, you could ask MIT students who've seen Caltech's Core. All those I've met readily admit that Caltech is much rougher and more rigorous.

Anonymous said...

Something Gregg Easterbrook pointed out about American Graffiti: It was released in 1973 and was set in 1962. The change in the world over that eleven years was enough to engender weepy nostalgia for simpler times.

If you released a movie today about 2001, would anyone notice anything different, besides perhaps the ubiquity of smartphones?

At some point in the recent past (I would guess somewhere in the '90s) popular culture simply stopped evolving at any sort of obvious rate.

I have no idea if there is deeper meaning in that.

Julian O'Dea said...

"Masculinist cliches" course? Seriously? At Stanford?

Steve Sailer said...

I've mentioned it before, but I was once visiting the Caltech campus researching a story about the administration's plan to have Richard Serra build a rusty metal wall across the only large lawn on campus and came upon a sophomore coed leading a tour of high school prospects and their parents. When one parent asked how tough Caltech is, the tour leader started talking about how hard her freshman year had been, and then she started sobbing. I've never even heard of that happening on tours of other colleges, much less seen it with my own eyes.

Steve Sailer said...

So, yeah, it would make sense to call Caltech not a safety school but a danger school, only for the daring.

articles said...

I saw some of American Graffiti in 1982 when I was 16 and cable had just become available in our neighborhood. To be honest, if I'd seen it before I had reached adolescence I wouldn't have wanted to be a teenager, ever.

ben tillman said...

Cornell is a better school than Brown in just about every respect: average SAT is very slightly lower, but that's only because the student body is much larger. Much better sports, campus, and selection of majors. Plus a law and medical school.

That doesn't make much sense.

You admit that Brown's student body is smarter.

How does having a law school make a university "better"?

How does having a medical school make a university better than another that also has a medical school (as Brown does)?

Brown leads the football series between the schools 32-26-1.

Vinteuil said...

"When one parent asked how tough Caltech is, the tour leader started talking about how hard her freshman year had been, and then she started sobbing..."

...at which point all the guys who really belonged at CalTech realized: "wow - this is the place for me!"

Great story.

Dean Wormer said...

To Andy Tuna Hater. From a Brown vs Cornell discussion on College Confidential:


1. In 2008, the admit rate at Brown was 13.2% and the admit rate at Cornell was 20.4%
By definition, Brown is much more selective
Ivy League Admission Statistics

2. Prestige is determined by how desirable a school is. According to the New York Times, 76% of those who are admitted to both Brown and Cornell choose to go to Brown.
The New York Times > Week in Review > Image > Collegiate Matchups: Predicting Student Choices

3. The gap between Brown and Cornell holds up in multiple ranking systems including the 2007 gold standard composite of all available rankings (US News, Gourman, Princeton Review, etc). Brown is ranked 8th and Cornell is ranked 20th.
The Consus Group: Composite College and University Rankings (2007) : The Consus Group Rankings

4. Even in a random sampling of CC'ers there is a clear preference for Brown
on CC, Brown is ranked "favorite ivy" more than any other ivy and is third overall. Cornell is ranked last overall.
Your FAVORITE Ivy?


An exception would be for students who wish to study practical arts like accounting, business or IT - Cornell is your choice. I don't think Brown has these majors.

Along with that thought, students' interested in Engineering would also be advised to attend Cornell. Again, I don't think Brown offers that and these guys likely raise the SAT averages.

Then again, you'd have to bite through your lip for 4 yrs to endure the hyperleft indoctrination. No doubt all the elite stats are much higher for Brown grads like % accepted and earning professional or other higher degrees.

Anonymous said...

"Then again, you'd have to bite through your lip for 4 yrs to endure the hyperleft indoctrination."

In my increasingly dated impressions, my high school acquaintances who attended Brown ended up by far the most left wing of all those who headed for the Ivies. Genuinely indoctrinated and crazy. The Harvard, Princeton and Yale grads tended to be more career-oriented.

Maya said...

""Masculinist cliches" course? Seriously? At Stanford?"

My dream is to teach some of those classes, one day. There is a class on Oprah at the University of Chicago. My own alma mater offered Tolkien's Elvish language course. What does one have to do to get paid for picking a random topic one finds interesting and talking about it with people who signed up to fulfill some credit requirement, hopefully pushing one's opinions onto them? Is it just for relatives of important people (by blood or bed) and celebrities?