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CMU offers fewer admissions following high yield last year

According to Dean of Admission Mike Steidel, Carnegie Mellon offered about 600 less admission spots compared to last year. This is the second year in a row that fewer admission spots have been offered than the prior year. The fall 2020 incoming class saw an increase of deferrals (up to 100-110 compared to the about 30 in regular years), causing admissions to offer less spots to the class of 2025+.

To avoid over-enrolling, it was decided that less admission spots would be offered this year. “As a result of the [increased number of deferred admissions], we cut back the number of admits,” Steidel said in reference to fall 2021. “We still saw the yield go up, even when you don’t consider the number of people that deferred. So this year, we cut back significantly more. Whereas the first year we cut back by 60 admits, we cut back by roughly 600 this year.”

Despite offering less admissions spots than the previous year, admissions saw an abnormally high yield rate, the percent of students admitted that actually enroll. Carnegie Mellon reported a yield rate of 42.6 percent in fall 2021’s admission cycle — an increase of six percent over fall 2020’s 36 percent yield rate. This accounted for 259 more first-year undergraduates enrolling this past year than the year before. The high yield rate was also reflected in the number of students admitted off the waitlist: 288 in fall 2020 and 35 in fall 2021.

Decreasing the number of admits this year by 600 is recognition that Carnegie Mellon’s yield could go up. This gives admissions the opportunity to take more students off the waitlist in case that yield does not match last year’s.

“We can certainly see with how deposits are running for next fall that the number of students depositing is substantially reduced over last year, so we’re back to normal,” Steidel said on April 29, a few days prior to the May 2 enrollment deadline. “We’re prepared to take students off the waiting list.”

Last year, the number of Carnegie Mellon applicants rose by 25 percent, with an additional four percent increase this year over last year, according to Steidel. He believes the reason for the number of applications increasing is two-fold: part of it is due to Carnegie Mellon going test optional, but also due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Admissions has faced its share of challenges from the pandemic, especially with a larger applicant pool. After the university went test-optional, 76 percent of students submitted their SAT scores in 2020 and only 47.7 did in 2021. This means that admissions was now missing a data point that they had in prior years. Steidel stated that applications in recent years have become “more of an art and less of a science” due to the increased volume of applications.

With the number of applications that the university has received in the past few years increasing, the admission rate of the university has been steadily decreasing. In fall 2021, only 4,453 were accepted out of a pool of 32,896 applicants (13.5 percent), down from 4,524 being accepted the year before out of 26,189 applicants in fall 2020 (17.2 percent).

The ever-decreasing percentage of admissions has also been echoed by Carnegie Mellon’s peer institutions. Princeton, for instance, saw an increase of 13.9 percent of applications over last year and admitted 1,941 students for an acceptance rate of 5.5 percent, down from 6.1 percent last year.

Despite the smaller number of admits this year, Steidel anticipates that more students will be accepted off the waitlist than normal. “We’re hoping [to accept more people off the waitlist,” Steidel said. “That’s the goal — to round out the class with the last few kids in each college. Admissions folks really like using the waitlist to put the finishing touches on the class. When you are overenrolled, you have no opportunity to do that, but when you have the opportunity to use the waiting list, in some ways, it’s the most ideal situation. It’s the most controlled situation to get to the right number.”