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Do Colleges Favor Applicants From Less Rigorous High Schools to Boost Entering-Student Stats?

CCEdit_TorreyCCEdit_Torrey Editor Posts: 162 Editor
Find out whether college admission offices prefer students from less rigorous high schools so their statistics look better: https://www.collegeconfidential.com/articles/do-colleges-favor-applicants-from-less-rigorous-high-schools-to-boost-entering-student-stats/

Replies to: Do Colleges Favor Applicants From Less Rigorous High Schools to Boost Entering-Student Stats?

  • Gator88NEGator88NE Registered User Posts: 6,396 Senior Member
    Some colleges could favor applicants at less rigorous high schools, that have LOWER stats.

    For example, the State of Texas has the top 10% rule (it's some % lower today). Students have been known to transfer to other, lower performing high schools, so they can get into the top 6 or 7% and get accepted into UT-Austin, etc.

    The University of Florida will consider in-state geographical residence as part of it's holistic admissions. It wants to accept students from across the state, including rural high schools.

    Of course, far more students get accepted from high performing schools, but in some cases, the lower performing school can be an advantage or at least not a major barrier.
  • richardmillerrichardmiller Registered User Posts: 20 Junior Member
    This is simply speculation, please remember that lower-achieving schools tend to be in lower-income areas and colleges give special consideration to kids who have had to deal with the trebulations of poverty
  • richardmillerrichardmiller Registered User Posts: 20 Junior Member
    and unless an investigation offers scientific data, you should avoid it
  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 36,006 Senior Member
    GPA isn’t really a measurement colleges tout, nor do most rankings or potential students pay much attention to it. Test scores are the thing comparable across high schools, and colleges are biased toward high test scores because it is a widely considered metric for the college. And higher scores are more likely to come from more rigorous high schools. So colleges wanting to boost their stats actually favor students from more rigorous high schools.
  • runnermlfrunnermlf Registered User Posts: 24 Junior Member
    I agree. Wile GPA is important, the problem of rigorous high schools and less rigorous high schools both handing out A's for different levels of performance means colleges tend to focus on standardized college entrance exams. The same can be said about the grading scale in different schools-- some schools accept 90%+ as an A, while others may only take 92.5%+, etc.
  • retiredfarmerretiredfarmer Registered User Posts: 788 Member
    edited February 10
    @intparent @runnermif
    What research do you have to support this idea? Have you actually worked in college admissions and observed this assumed behavior?

    This helps me to better understand why people make such a big deal out of standardized test scores. They don't understand the behavioral math behind it.

    1, GPA's are the most important single statistic published to date, but not the only statistic, to demonstrate a significant relationship with post secondary GPA. Like all statistics, it does not necessarily apply to an individual, but does to the average performance of groups. Admissions offices are striving largely to improve average GPA performance

    2. Admissions offices work to identify the rigor of secondary schools by: (1) knowing their past experience with the secondary school; (2) knowing the percentage of students in the secondary school who go on to post secondary education; (3) knowing what post secondary institutions they have recently attended.

    3. Like all statistically based tools, standardized tests scores are best used to predict the average behavior of a group and not of an individual when tested against post secondary GPA. This means that the average test score of a secondary school are helpful indicators of the secondary school's rigor. In the end, rigor counts.

    Just to keep this complicated enough, many college admissions offices spend a good deal of time trying to improve the university's average first year students' GPA by weeding out students in the admissions process who appear to test well, but do not show motivation or interest. If they succeed, the entering class will outperform their standardized test score average.

    This discussion can be easily confused with a different, but related issue: "Clipping the top as well as the bottom?" See earlier CC posting at entry 22 at https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/worcester-polytechnic-institute/2070820-is-wpi-clipping-the-top-as-well-as-the-bottom-p2.html

    "Why Test Optional Admissions" is a related thread which presents the complexities of standardized testing and its relationship to student performance. See https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/sat-act-tests-test-preparation/2084255-why-test-optional-admissions-p1.html

    Footnote for history buff: This all goes back to the purchase of ingredients for brewing at Guinness Brewery and the discovery of the "normal" or the "student's" distribution.


  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 36,006 Senior Member
    Do you ever see colleges compared in ranking or rankings trumpeting GPA? I do not -- the published and discussed statistic for the sake of a college's reputation is ALWAYS test scores. Nobody ever says, "Well the average incoming GPA of college A is 3.8, but the average incoming GPA of college B is 3.7." That conversation literally never happens.

    I am not saying colleges don't look at GPA for admissions. They do, of course. Some colleges may weight it more than test scores for their own reason. But they don't really think about it in terms of somehow improving their reputation if they take students with higher GPAs. The premise that the GPA stat matters very much IN THE MARKETPLACE is where the original question goes awry.
  • retiredfarmerretiredfarmer Registered User Posts: 788 Member
    edited February 10
    @intparent
    I use the GPA argument all the time and agree with you that it is largely ignored. Test scores rule in public conversation. I believe it is like baseball statistics... easier to talk about but hard to play. My background involves behavioral statistics. I'm really not very smart, but I have noticed a deep lack of understanding in this field. That is why the government can make so much money in the lottery!

    Personally, I believe one learns more through interests. Some people call it curiosity.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 30,857 Senior Member
    Back up. This is not all about stats. The issue is the kid with the 4.0 at a non-rigorous hs may not have had the same challenges, same higher expectations, as one from the more competitive. In some hs, you can find more general emphasis on, say, vocational electives than driving further in core subjects. Yes, it's easier to stand out, when some larger percentage of seniors are not off to 4-year colleges. But that doesn't speak for the readiness of this individual applicant-- not when you're speaking of a highly competitive U.

    The point is not college gpa. It's the ability to keep up with more stringently prepared peers, in class, in the work, and prof expectations. So, the rest of the app matters much- how does "this kid" strive, how has he challenged himself beyond grades, what's her potential impact? Does he or she seem to have the ability to self advocate? And so on. The teacher recs (and the quality of their observations) matter.

    At the same time, when you assume kids at an underperforming hs can't have the academic benefits, the stretch, the level of ECs, it ignores the individual and the picture that can come through. The picture in a tough holistic process.

    GPA matters (as does course selection) because it shows this striving (for one's top performance.) Scores matter because they show this same striving. But thay are not magic- you still need the rest of the picture. And that's not just going for your own "interests," walking your way through your hs experience. You can find the driven kids at a lesser hs. But this is about those individuals. Yes, I have admissions experience, not an adcom.

    Be careful to try to understand from the front to back. Not back to front (or back-end,) which would be looking at acceptance and matriculation related info and assuming some things that may not be there. In general, top colleges care more about freshmn retention and grad rates than who gets what high college gpa.
  • retiredfarmerretiredfarmer Registered User Posts: 788 Member
    "In general, top colleges care more about freshmn retention and grad rates than who gets what high college gpa. ."

    In complete agreement here.

    The analysis of variance model used many years ago in my above reference was real in a multi-year study. The college GPA was a proxy for student retention. The assumption being that a decline in the college GPA would lead to poor retention. Of course retention is the goal!

    I did this work for ten years. Yes, I have experience also, including ADCOM. We also learned that the relationship between the secondary school GPA and the college GPA was strongest in first year, faded in second year, but still held a stronger relationship in the third year than did standardized test scores. Variance in standardized test scores never performed as well as a predictor of college GPA as did variance in the secondary GPA.

    Note: It would be very difficult to run this test if all entering freshmen had had 4.0 GPAs and 800 SAT scores. Variance testing requires variance..
  • happy1happy1 Forum Champion Parents, Forum Champion Admissions Posts: 23,363 Forum Champion
    My kids went to a very rigorous HS that does not weight GPA and students do extremely well in terms of college admissions.
  • SomeWhereNTheSkySomeWhereNTheSky Registered User Posts: 17 Junior Member
    That’s interesting, I’ve never heard of this before.
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