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Tufts syndrome spreads to Harvard!

MastadonMastadon 1738 replies49 threads Senior Member
edited January 2019 in Harvard University
During a routine examination of Harvard's admissions practices, it was found that Harvard has been afflicted with Tufts syndrome. The outward symptoms were apparently masked by other factors, so it is unknown how long Harvard has been suffering from this disease. Given Harvard's lack of externally visible symptoms and its proximity to Tufts, some academic health specialists are now speculating that Tufts might have caught the disease from Harvard.

College admissions advisors such as @Dave_Berry of College Confidental had previously speculated that Tufts syndrome was limited to colleges that consider demonstrated interest in their decision criteria, but Harvard clearly states that it does not. This has academic health officials worried that no school is immune from the disease, and that the disease may be more widespread than previously thought. Health officials also warn that Harvard may have either caught the disease from, or spread it to other Ivy League schools, so applicants should act accordingly.
Harvard is also picky in offering admissions to engineers and computer scientists, in part because it doesn’t want to be dumped by technologically inclined whiz kids being courted by top science-focused schools. If too many of those students pass on Harvard, the college might have an overabundance of last-minute seats to fill, admissions officials said.
edited January 2019
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Replies to: Tufts syndrome spreads to Harvard!

  • TomSrOfBostonTomSrOfBoston 15290 replies1035 threads Senior Member
    edited January 2019
    That is not Tufts Syndrome. It just means that Harvard does not admit by stats alone and has caps on enrolment in certain programs, like many universities.

    "...the college might have an overabundance of last-minute seats to fill" Seriously?
    edited January 2019
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  • skieuropeskieurope 40544 replies7539 threads Super Moderator
    .the college might have an overabundance of last-minute seats to fill
    Yeah, like that will be an issue. 8-|

    As an aside, Harvard has previously stated that they are planing to admit fewer applicants this year and to go to waitlist in order to prevent the overenrollment in which occurred 2 cycles ago. But I would not read Tufts Syndrome into that.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 80232 replies720 threads Senior Member
    Would Harvard look more favorably at an engineering applicant who, instead of writing an essay giving goals of making major engineering advances (suggesting that a college like MIT may be his/her first choice), writes an essay indicating that s/he wants to study engineering in order to have an engineering background to go into financing of engineering companies or management consulting to engineering companies (traditional Harvard post-graduation destinations with an engineering subfocus)?
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  • jzducoljzducol 780 replies14 threads Member
    Here are the acceptance rates for different intended concentrations (coming out of the litigation data prior to 2015):

    CS/Eng 4.4% < Bio Science 5.2% < Social Sci 5.9% < Physical Sci 6.2% < Undecided 6.3% < math 6.9% < humanities 7.4%

    In the last few years the number of CS/Eng applicants keeps rising. Given the fact that yield is typically inversely related to acceptance rate and Harvard's average yield is 82%, I imagine yield from CS/Eng admits could be north of 85%. That means that Harvard is likely to win over 80% CS/Eng cross-admits.

    The low rate for CS/Eng could either be due to yield protection (Tufts syndrome) or a cultural protection---Harvard doesn't want too many engineers to change the feel of College. I suspect its the latter. As Fitzsimmon put it Harvard wanted more "humanists".
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  • MastadonMastadon 1738 replies49 threads Senior Member

    There are two definitions of Tufts syndrome.

    One is that high stats applicants are rejected in order to protect yield.

    Another is that it doesn't exist (i.e it is a false perception), because high stats applicants are really being rejected for holistic reasons, not yield protection.


    From a mathematical standpoint, yield is inversely proportional to "the number of students that pass on Harvard" - so making admissions decisions with the goal of reducing "the number of last-minute seats you have to fill" is a textbook definition of yield protection. Note that yield is inversely proportional to acceptance rate, and when your yield is upwards of 82% and your acceptance rate is downwards of 5% even small perturbations in the numbers are important when trying to eliminate the less than half a percent advantage that Stanford has in acceptance rate.

    As both you and @skieurope have pointed out, fear of having to fill a few seats from the wait list is not a plausible rational for such behavior, but overtaking Stanford to regain the title of most selective university in the country just might be :-)

    Over enrollment is the result of underestimating yield, so overestimating yield in subsequent years (which results in fewer admits and back filling from the wait list) is prudent and definitely not an example of yield protection.

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  • lostaccountlostaccount 5331 replies90 threads Senior Member
    jzducol the increase in CS & engineering acceptances is probably related to some recent huge donations earmarked for STEM-thus fueling Harvard's increased focus on it.
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  • lostaccountlostaccount 5331 replies90 threads Senior Member
    Those interested in yield and its impact on colleges and universities might be interested in: https://www.nber.org/papers/w10803

    It is worth reading the entire paper despite it being a bit dated. I doubt much has changed.
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1585 replies35 threads Senior Member
    If Harvard doesn't care about yield at all, it would do away with SCEA. The single-choice restriction identifies applicants who are likely to choose Harvard over its peers.
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  • PublisherPublisher 9640 replies121 threads Senior Member
    I thought that Harvard Admissions just forwarded engineering & CS apps to MIT. Am I mistaken ?
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35243 replies399 threads Senior Member
    edited January 2019
    Lol, some act ike H adcoms are the stereotype of middle school mean girls, worried about impressions and getting enough A-list cute- and effervescent- boys to show up to their party. I think you'll never get an idea of what matters til you get past that.

    Traditionally, Tufts Syndrome didn't refer to yield, per se. It was more specifically that, with H and MIT down the road, T had to consider how to attract kids truly interested in this college. Most kids, wherever they apply, including so-called top performers, don't know how to show interest. (Look at all the CC advice that showing interest is as easy as visiting or getting on an email list. Far too simplistic.) So, they miss the point and reap the (non) rewards.

    If H is "picky" about STEM wiz kids who may really want another, that, too, relates to interest. Not some blind, ignorant short look at stats and accomplishments. Not assuming. And not giving up on a great applicant just because "maybe" he wants someplace else.

    And they have a great waitlist.
    edited January 2019
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