When Ben Nelson was a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, in the mid-1990s, he volunteered for the annual phone-athon to call admitted students. His job was to persuade them to enroll, and he was relentless in his sales pitch.
When his classmates gave up after several nights of calls, Mr. Nelson returned to finish them off himself. “I was very effective, if I must say so myself,” he told me when I met him recently. “Wharton’s yield during the time I recruited was up by 1,000 basis points,” or 10 percent.
By his senior year, admissions officials simply handed Mr. Nelson stacks of paper with none of the students’ personal information redacted. He saw addresses, Social Security numbers, high-school grade-point averages, SAT scores, class rank.
“As I scanned the list, I’d see valedictorians, salutatorians, applicants with perfect SAT scores,” he recalled. “Then I’d see 129th in the class, 89th in the class, 250th in the class. Every seven or eight names there would be someone not remotely qualified, not even close.” <Read more.>