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Victims of the Tufts Syndrome: a lack of demonstrated interest?

CatriaCatria Posts: 9,621Registered User Senior Member
edited February 2013 in College Admissions
I always thought that the tendency of a school to exhibit the symptoms of Tufts Syndrome was best correlated to the weight it places on demonstrated interest. Perhaps there are schools where demonstrated interest doesn't matter and are still, somehow, afflicted by the sickness.

A school afflicted with Tufts Syndrome is a college that, while not being a reach-for-anyone college, waitlists or rejects "overqualified" students, in an attempt to protect yield.

Are there other factors to take in account when assessing the vulnerability of a school to the TS? I know that most non-holistic schools are not afflicted.
Post edited by Catria on
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Replies to: Victims of the Tufts Syndrome: a lack of demonstrated interest?

  • SkeezeyJSkeezeyJ Posts: 421Registered User Member
    Ehh, I don't know if I necessarily buy the "overqualified" argument. If a student is qualified to the point that it's obvious he or she will greatly contribute to the university (like a Stephen Hawking applying to WashU), it'd be completely stupid to reject the student to ensure a yield 0.01% higher. Sure, inexplicable waitlists happen, but a lot of times there are plenty of students who fall into the exact same profile of contribution. Are you a 2370 SAT student whose main occupation is the oboe? Congratulations! Stand in line with the other 20-50 applicants just like yourself! There are so many factors that play into admissions that TS can be seen like a conspiracy theory: it may happen and even sound alright in theory, but in reality it's a downright stupid policy that would discourage "overqualified" students and greatly hamper the community of a university. If you're a football team with six five-star quarterbacks interested in your school, chances are you offer a scholarship to all of them. If you get the luxury later of having several commitments, you can choose between them to see which few best suit your program and leave a window of opportunity for the others in case one decides he doesn't want to go after all.
  • CatriaCatria Posts: 9,621Registered User Senior Member
    I still can't shake the feeling that demonstrated interest correlates to the tendency to waitlist or reject well-qualified students for no apparent reason (again it cannot apply to reach-for-anyone colleges, like modern-day Tufts) more than any other factor...
  • blueiguanablueiguana Posts: 7,496Registered User Senior Member
    Demonstrated interest is not a mysterious theory. Some schools consider it, some don't. It's easy to find out by checking the common data set. If you're applying to one that does there are ways to do this without a visit if the school is over a few hours driving distance. Get on their mailing list, meet with the rep that visits your hs, contact your regional rep, attend any local information nights, request an alumni interview if they are offered. All of these things show interest and are tracked. It's really not a big effort if you are interested in having the school as an option.

    I also don't know that I'd link Tufts with demonstrated interest, but then I'm not a big believer in Tufts. Sometimes a very well qualified candidate is simply rejected for reasons not easily rattled off in GPA, SAT, rank, and ECs. Sometimes there is something in the applicants file that just didn't speak to the admissions reader. Two people can have very different reactions to subjective factors such as an essay. One can find it edgy and compelling, while another finds it self indulgent and reveling arrogance. You just don't know. One reader looks at a file and sees a student that would fit in and fill a niche, another sees a student spending hours in their dorm. So the same student gets accepted to a top 20 school, but denied at a lessor ranked school. Tufts, or different school looking for different things and possibly human nature reacting differently to subjective elements in the application?
  • SoCalDad2SoCalDad2 Posts: 710Registered User Member
    When you are looking for a spouse, you probably would rather choose someone who likes you than someone who doesn't. Many schools likely are the same way when choosing students.

    I understand Tufts Syndrome to be something entirely different. It occurs when a college wants someone but turns them down solely to protect yield. They could be turning down students who like the school as much as anyone else, but who are "overqualified" for the school.

    This will hurt the college's GPA and SAT statistics for accepted (and enrolled) students, as well as reducing the overall quality of the students who attend the school. I don't see why any rational college would do that, especially since no one but a few people on CC care about yield.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Posts: 9,801Registered User Senior Member
    I think there's a misunderstanding about demonstrated interest-- for undergrad, it's not the act of visiting that turns some tide. It's your knowledge of the school and what really makes it a match for you, you a match for it. And, how you convey that. You'd be surprised, but many kids don't get this.

    I'm with BI. Lots of factors go into deciding a kid is right for "this" school. The constant talk on CC about stats can be misleading, when it comes to holistic.
  • intparentintparent Posts: 10,270Registered User Senior Member
    I think there's a misunderstanding about demonstrated interest-- for undergrad, it's not the act of visiting that turns some tide. It's your knowledge of the school and what really makes it a match for you, you a match for it.

    That may be what makes a kid's "why X" essay stand out. But I have heard that some schools "score" touches as a demonstration of interest (those schools that care). Did you sign up to get mailings from them? Did you visit campus? Did you go to a session at your high school or in your home town that they held? Did you interview given the opportunity?

    I often wonder how the high school guidance counselor plays into the "interest" read that a school gets. I know colleges sometimes call the counselor to discuss a student before admitting them, and I am pretty sure one of the things they are often trying to get a read on is how interested the student actually is in the college. I think a GC can kill a student's admission if they let on that they know the student is lukewarm, or already has an acceptance to a school they prefer. This always makes me nervous, as my D's feelings toward schools (and mine as the payer of the tuition bills) has not stayed static over time. What if the GC has "last week's" info when the school calls? :(
  • CT1417CT1417 Posts: 1,491Registered User Senior Member
    I don't know if this article is locked. (WSJ is more more restrictive than NYT.)
    Glass Floor: Colleges Reject Top Applicants, Accepting Only the Students Likely to Enroll - WSJ.com

    LMK if the article does not open and I can post the rest of it. (Also, was written ten years ago so very out of date, but the concept is the same.) Here is the beginning:

    When it came to choosing next year's freshman class at Franklin and Marshall College, admission director Gregory Goldsmith hit upon a curious way of boosting the Lancaster, Pa., school's stature. He spurned 140 of its smartest applicants.

    The prospective students submitted Scholastic Aptitude Test scores and grades well above the average for applicants to the college. In past years, Mr. Goldsmith says, the college invariably admitted similarly qualified students who, like these, hadn't bothered to interview with the school. And usually, only half a dozen or so of them would enroll. "They think they're Ivy material," Mr. Goldsmith says.

    So he relegated the overachievers to the waiting list. By doing so, he wove a statistical illusion, making the liberal-arts college appear more desirable and selective without actually raising the quality of its incoming freshman class.

    By wait-listing top applicants who didn't visit the campus or interview with college representatives, the college bumped up its yield for the next school year to 27% from 25%. It also improved its acceptance rate -- the ratio of acceptances to total applications -- to a more selective 51% from 53%. Such numbers could help Franklin and Marshall rise in the US News ranking of national liberal-arts colleges from its current position of 33rd. And it saved the merit aid it otherwise might have spent to lure students away from their first choices.


    Only 16 of the 140 outstanding applicants opted for spots on the waiting list, supporting Mr. Goldsmith's hunch that, for most of them, the college was a fallback. Since it probably would have lost most of the applicants anyway, the college sacrificed only a marginal gain in average SAT scores and class rank among incoming freshmen -- a price Mr. Goldsmith was willing to pay.
  • SoCalDad2SoCalDad2 Posts: 710Registered User Member
    Only 16 of the 140 outstanding applicants opted for spots on the waiting list, supporting Mr. Goldsmith's hunch that, for most of them, the college was a fallback. Since it probably would have lost most of the applicants anyway, the college sacrificed only a marginal gain in average SAT scores and class rank among incoming freshmen -- a price Mr. Goldsmith was willing to pay.

    Goldsmith sacrificed a marginal gain in SAT scores and class rank (what people look at) for a marginal gain in yield (which few people look at). Doesn't seem rational to me.

    If I was a professor at the school, I would be mad at Goldsmith for denying me the ability to have better students (possibly 16 of them). If I was a student at the school, I would be mad at Goldsmith for denying me some smart colleagues. If I was a potential applicant, I would be less likely to apply. I wonder what happened to the quality of the applicant pool after this article was published. Seems to me that Goldsmith shouldn't be allowed within ten miles of a college.
  • Erin's DadErin's Dad Posts: 16,457Registered User Senior Member
    ^ The paragraph you quoted is, in my mind, a misstatement. The college didn't sacrifice any gain in SAT scores. The SAT scores reported in the CDS are for those freshmen who enroll (same thing with the class rank). The 16 who remained on the wait list were going to attend the college or not. Mr Goldsmith is probably doing the right thing for the college.
  • SoCalDad2SoCalDad2 Posts: 710Registered User Member
    If the 16 never came off the wait list, or went elsewhere because they weren't shown any "love" by the school, the SAT scores on the CDS would be lower (assuming that some of those 16 would have gone to the school if initially accepted). Also, the scores of accepted (rather than enrolled) students would be lower, and some colleges publicize those scores.
  • intparentintparent Posts: 10,270Registered User Senior Member
    They are not the most rational college when it comes to trying to attract high caliber students to start with. A few years ago they gave up merit aid completely. So kids with high stats that might be looking for merit (and wanted good grades for med school admissions at a more science-leaning LAC) are looking elsewhere. What I am saying is that I don't think F&M is a college that is "normal" in the respect of wanting high stats students to start with.
  • rmldadrmldad Posts: 1,301Registered User Senior Member
    I am appalled at Goldsmith's cavalier attitude towards applicants. If 16 accepted spots on the WL, how many more would have enrolled at F&M if they had been accepted? I am sure that some of the 140 received their WL letter and promptly paid a deposit to another school (perhaps their second choice), rejecting the F&M WL simply because they wanted to end the grueling application process.

    16 wrong guesses out of 140 seems embarrassingly high to me. Goldsmith should be ashamed of himself that more than 10% of students that he felt he had no chance with, instead turned out to be willing to forfeit their deposit at another school in order to preserve a chance at F&M.
  • Papa ChickenPapa Chicken Posts: 2,841Registered User Senior Member
    FWIW, based upon my observations now on my 3rd college-going kid (visiting Tufts each time!), I think the era of Tufts exhibiting 'Tufts syndrome' is long gone. [I'll use the definition of denying or waitlisting a high degree of good-stat applicants less likely to enroll.] I base this on observing scattergrams. For my kids' schools, Tufts has 'solid green' (admits) beyond a certain GPA/SAT threshold, with very few waitlists. On the other hand, Washinton U SL liberally uses waitlisting at the high end....but there are still many more acceptances scattered amongst fewer waitlists, so they are not purely excluding high-end applicants. The only other school I've noticed doing this a tad perhaps is Vanderbilt....a few more waitlists than other schools in the green zone (I speculate that they are very ranking-oriented based upon their clear SAT cutoff zone I've seen in scattergrams.)

    While this practice does strike a bit of a cynical bone in me, as we all know there are many factors beyond the stats to getting accepted into these high end schools. Rightly so I say. Scattergrams for Harvard, Yale & Stanford are peppered with rejects and waitlists for the high stat applicants...there is no 'green zone.' Perhaps Washington U and Vanderbilt as less excited to accept a high-stat applicant who otherwise does not fit well. Maybe they've figured that part of their formula out better than some other schools? And perhaps that perception of misfit is related to a poorly-related essay, non-aligned interests, or even a lack of demonstrated interest. Difficult to know.

    PS....interesting observation on F&M...the F&M scattergrams (going back to '07) for my kids HSs shows no apparent Tufts Syndrome, so perhaps that practice from 10 years ago has passed.
  • barrk123barrk123 Posts: 3,440Registered User Senior Member
    the college bumped up its yield for the next school year to 27% from 25%. It also improved its acceptance rate -- the ratio of acceptances to total applications -- to a more selective 51% from 53%. Such numbers could help Franklin and Marshall rise in the US News ranking of national liberal-arts colleges from its current position of 33rd.

    Thats funny because F&M is now ranked 46th
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Posts: 22,585Registered User Senior Member
    I am not surprised that F&M went downwards after that article hit the news. I would have fired that fool of an admissions officer for doing what he did and opening his big mouth about it. What do you think the subsequent years' applicants are going to do with F&M on their list? What do you think Intrepid GCs are going to advise after reading that article? Sheesh, what a fool. You can get away with doing things like that only for a while. A lot of the rigorous high schools have people keeping an eagle eye on such trends and they will tell their top students not to bother applying to F&M if they get a whiff of that. I would, I know.

    And to F&M's loss. My SIL's brother was turned down by his first choice UPenn for which he was eminently and good candidate, along with like schools, and he was accepted and went to F&M. Had a great education and is an alum that the school could be proud of. But he was a top catch for F&M that would have never been accepted if that fool Goldsmith were there.

    I know many, many kids who were had credential nearly identical and even "exceeding" their Ivy bound classmates' who were WL and not accepted to those top schools. I can fill a page of HPYC candidates from the last few years alone off the top of my head. A number of those kid are now at schools like F&M. Playing games like waitlisting them is really foolish, as most of these kids did have a number of choices and didn;t have to waste the time of playing footsies with the likes of F&M.
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