Students Choosing Colleges: Understanding the Matriculation Decision at a Highly Selective Private Institution

Peter Nurnberg, Morton Schapiro, David Zimmerman

NBER Working Paper No. 15772
Issued in February 2010
NBER Program(s):   ED

The college choice process can be reduced to three questions:

1) Where does a student apply?

2) Which schools accept the students?

3) Which offer of admission does the student accept?

This paper addresses question three. Specifically, we offer an econometric analysis of the matriculation decisions made by students accepted to Williams College, one of the nation's most highly selective colleges and universities. We use data for the Williams classes of 2008 through 2012 to estimate a yield model. We find that--conditional on the student applying to and being accepted by Williams--applicant quality as measured by standardized tests, high school GPA and the like, the net price a particular student faces (the sticker price minus institutional financial aid), the applicant's race and geographic origin, plus the student's artistic, athletic and academic interests, are strong predictors of whether or not the student will matriculate.

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This paper was revised on December 5, 2011

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w15772

Published: Nurnberg, Peter & Schapiro, Morton & Zimmerman, David, 2012. "Students choosing colleges: Understanding the matriculation decision at a highly selective private institution," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 1-8. citation courtesy of

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