I have been thinking about a lot of numbers lately. And since we are in the season where everyone is a making decisions, I thought I would share what numbers colleges are paying attention to now.

If you are looking to apply to college soon, you may be looking at different college rankings from different organizations. And you may be wondering how they come up with those rankings. Most people will argue that one school is just as good as another and that the rankings don’t matter. Unless you know how the school came up with the ranking, you really can’t say that.

Some schools rank by affordability, some by number of Nobel laureates, some by job placement. The point is that there is a number of ways schools rank and many of those ways may be important to you. Also reminds me that I’ve been intending to rank schools according to what is important and essential for my clients.

One of the ways that schools rank (and this has a profound impact on admissions) is by yields. A yield is the percentage of students who actually enroll after they are admitted. If a school has a higher yield, this may indicate that students found the school more appealing compared to others in which they were admitted. Most often this is connected to the financial aid package the student received. You may see schools working to increase their yields by holding admissions events or calling students to congratulate them. From my experience though, it most often comes down to which school would cost more.

For that reason and a few more, I usually recommend that students apply to about ten or twelve schools, a trend we are seeing across the country, including students applying to over 20 schools with the thought by flooding the market, they are increasing their odds. And with the Common Application, that is a lot easier if one can afford it.

But this creates a really strange cycle—students are applying to more schools, but out of concern for yields, among other things, colleges are not accepting as many students. There is another data point that some organizations use to rank: the percentage of students who are admitted at all. Schools may “recruit to deny,” meaning they are intentionally persuading students to apply to their school without having any intention of accepting them.

High yields and high application/low acceptance rates might lead someone to believe there is high exclusivity, leading to prestige.

Thinking about the students who gain admissions into all eight Ivy League schools and an MIT or Stanford thrown in are especially remarkable because they have gotten the universities to temporarily forego concern over their yields. Putting more attention on those students though lends to the second data point as students are more encouraged to apply to all eight schools and the more selective schools thinking they will be next year’s hat trick.

This year was interesting for me, because I saw, as many other college counselors have discussed, remarkable students applying to prestigious schools and getting denied. Or students getting into all of the schools they applied to but not getting any funding, or worse, promised an unknown amount of funding should they enroll.

All in all, it has forced me to rethink some things. And since I am a numbers person, I am looking at those numbers and creating a list of schools that think about admissions differently, especially in how funding impacts those decisions.

One of the first tasks at the workshop on May 28 will be to create a college list based on these standards. Click here for more information and to register.