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Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


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What is Yield Protection/Tufts Syndrome?

In the college applications process, the relationship between a student and an institution is reciprocal. Applicants work to make themselves stand out to colleges, and colleges strive to make themselves attractive to prospective students. In today’s competitive application environment, where students apply to numerous schools, one of the characteristics many colleges are looking for in applicants is a willingness to attend—that is, if a student is accepted, will they actually enroll? Colleges measure this using the yield, also called acceptance rates.

Understanding Yield


To understand yield protection, you first must understand what yield is. The yield is simply the percentage of students who enroll at a university after being accepted. Many colleges hold the belief that their yield is indicative of prestige. An esteemed school like Harvard University had a yield of 81.7% for its class of 2022, while Tufts’ 2020 class had a yield rate of 46.5%. It’s typical for highly selective schools to have higher yields than less selective schools, in large part because they’re commonly a student’s first choice.


Understanding Yield Protection


Yield protection is a tactic reportedly used by some colleges and universities in which they reject or waitlist exceptional candidates, in part because they believe the students will be accepted and matriculate in more distinguished institutions. Because many institutions believe yield is an indicator of the desirability of a school, they work to maximize their yield; no school wants to be seen as a “safety” school. Yield protection is also commonly called “Tufts syndrome,” a moniker bestowed due to a large number of times Tufts University has been accused of the practice.


One of the greatest debates over yield protection is over its existence—no school openly admits to the practice, and some will argue that Tufts syndrome is a fabrication made up by students bitter over being waitlisted or rejected by a school they thought they would be accepted to. One telling trait of schools that suggests whether a college practices yield protection is how much a college values demonstrated interest. Schools that greatly value demonstrated interest deliver a solution to overcome any potential Tufts Syndrome; simply show genuine enthusiasm for the school.


Real or not, below is a list of schools commonly associated with the practice of yield protection:


  • American University
  • Boston College
  • Boston University
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Franklin and Marshall
  • George Washington University
  • Grinnell College
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Kenyon College
  • Lehigh University
  • New York University
  • Northeastern University
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Rice University
  • Swarthmore College
  • Tulane University
  • Tufts University
  • University of California Davis
  • University of California Los Angeles
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Southern California
  • Washington University in St. Louis

Demonstrate Interest and Avoid Being a Victim of Tufts Syndrome


Show Up: Take a tour, meet with a representative, stop by a booth at a college fair. Make sure to introduce yourself and express your excitement for the institution—after all, everyone loves compliments, even colleges. Make sure to get the contact information for the person you spoke with so that you can…


Follow Up: Admissions officers and college representatives meet hundreds to thousands of potential applicants a year, so it takes more than one interaction to stand out. Follow up with them after your first meeting and reiterate your enthusiasm for their school.


Reach Out: If you can’t visit campus and meet an admissions officer or faculty member face to face, try to schedule a phone meeting or establish an email correspondence.


Get on the Right Track: Colleges can track if students open emails and how long they view them for, see if would-be students check the status of their application and how frequently, and if they called the school and how long they talked for. All of the above send subtle signs to an institution about an applicant’s interest.


Get Social: Just like admissions officers can examine how frequently you’ve checked on your application, they can check to see if you follow the college’s social media channels and if you’ve interacted. If you’re serious about attending a certain institution, make sure to click like.


Submit a Supplemental Essay: If you’ve visited a school and spoken with numerous people associated with a particular school, the supplemental essay can be an applicant’s opportunity to shine. Write about why you want to attend and what appeals to you about the college or university and make sure to include all the first-hand knowledge you’ve gained along the way.


Apply Early: Applying for early action or early decision is a surefire way for an applicant to demonstrate their interest in attending an institution; however, it may not be the right decision for every student. Even if an applicant is applying for regular admission, having their application submitted a few weeks before the deadline is an easy way to show excitement for a school. Just remember not to rush your application—quality should take precedence over expedience.


Want to learn more about demonstrated interest? Read our blog What is Demonstrated Interest in College Admissions?


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Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.