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ACT score of 20, stellar everything else. How much will this matter to "average" LAC's?


Replies to: ACT score of 20, stellar everything else. How much will this matter to "average" LAC's?

  • HannaHanna Registered User Posts: 14,902 Senior Member
    ""test optional" is to the institution's and not the student's advantage."

    Essentially all admissions policies are in place to serve the institution's goals. This is no different from every other policy in that sense.

    "only strong students will submit their standardized test scores (which raises the school's average ACT)"

    Right. But unless the policy provokes more high-scoring students to apply (which it does not), they have to fill the rest of the class with non-submitters to make this work.

    "More applications for a limited number of spaces means higher selectivity for the institution."

    Sure it does, but it won't make the school's score range go up, and that's what matters. Test scores are six and a half times more heavily weighted in USNews's formula than admit rate. Admit rate only determines about 1% of a school's ranking -- it's worthless. To make the school's score range go up, they have to admit the same low-scoring students they were admitting before, but with scores concealed (from them and from USNews).

    Look at it from their point of view. If they could fill the class with high scorers, they wouldn't go test-optional in the first place (don't hold your breath waiting for Ivies to drop the SAT). Once you've admitted all the high scorers, your remaining choices are low scorers and non-submitters. What incentive do they have to reject non-submitters who are otherwise the next best qualified kids in the pool? A non-submitter is way more desirable than an equally qualified student with a reportable low score.
  • dec51995dec51995 Registered User Posts: 264 Junior Member
    You're convincing me he should go test optional if he doesn't manage to raise his score much this summer--and if the school he's interested in happens to be among the test optional schools. The problem is that he's already identified several schools he would fit in well at and which have the kind of golf program he's looking for. Half of them are not test optional.

    And not really to further the debate, but maybe to show that the question might not be as simple as you're suggesting, @Hanna, I'll add that the way that test optional raises score average is that schools don't have to report the scores of students who chose not to submit--unless they make taking the test and reporting the score after admission a requirement (which isn't in their interest). Here's what a New York Times article says about the potential effect of going test optional:

    "How much of a lift can colleges get if they ignore some scores? Mr. Epstein says that applicants who don’t divulge their SAT results generally score 100 to 150 points lower than a typical submitter. He bases this estimate on the experiences of Bates College, which went optional in the ’80s, and several institutions that shared data with him. If 25 percent to 50 percent of a freshman class didn’t send in results, he concludes, reported scores could increase 25 to 75 points."

    The same article also indicated that schools that make the switch to test optional see a 10-20 percent bump in the number of applications.

    So Bates is a highly selective college. I wonder what the less selective colleges are doing. So...still no real answers to my question about how big a deal this low ACT score is to a kid who is great in every other way and would like to apply to some schools that require the ACT.
  • BatesParents2019BatesParents2019 Registered User Posts: 801 Member
    edited June 2015
    @dec51995 This all doesn't matter because you cannot submit a 20 score when the kid has a 3.8 GPA. Immediately, the GPA will be discounted and considered suspect.

    I wouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth with this student.
  • HannaHanna Registered User Posts: 14,902 Senior Member
    "still no real answers to my question about how big a deal this low ACT score is to a kid who is great in every other way and would like to apply to some schools that require the ACT."

    Yes, I did answer the question. The answer is, "a score below the 25th percentile will almost always hurt a white male applicant, but that doesn't mean he has no shot a school where he's within spitting distance." To put it more directly, that is a big deal that lowers his odds of admission, but it's not necessarily hopeless. It might help if you told us what the schools are.

    Kids get attached to schools that are out of reach all the time. It's the job of the adults to help the kids adjust to reality and ensure that there are admissions and financial safeties on the list.

    "If 25 percent to 50 percent of a freshman class didn’t send in results, he concludes, reported scores could increase 25 to 75 points."

    Right, because they are ADMITTING a bunch of the non-submitters. Otherwise, the scores of the enrolled class wouldn't go up. It really is that simple.
  • dec51995dec51995 Registered User Posts: 264 Junior Member
    Yeah--but are they admitting kids like my nephew--would be the operative question. The article suggests they are using this vehicle to admit wealthy kids who can pay, athletic recruits who wouldn't make the test cut, and, possibly, URM's. My nephew doesn't belong to any of these categories.

    I'm sorry--I still don't understand your point about score average. The score average will go up if those who score low don't submit scores. And, though I appreciate your help, Hanna, I feel like you're yelling at me.

    He will certainly apply to these schools, even if he has to submit his ACT score for the ones that aren't test optional. But I think he should probably also apply to schools with lower ACT average so he doesn't risk getting completely shut out. And, from what I read in your 3rd paragraph, I think you're agreeing with me that he needs to widen his list.
  • StressingMomStressingMom Registered User Posts: 88 Junior Member
    edited June 2015
    Ugh, I hate that the link didn't show up, but I'm glad you found the site anyway.
    Anyway, I think what it boils down to is that a 20 ACT score is actually pretty much the average composite score for many states. http://www.act.org/newsroom/data/2013/states.html So, for every kid here on CC that scores above 30, there are outliers on the lower end of the scale as well. I don't know what schools he has in mind, but I think state schools will be a good bet in general. One caveat,not sure if this applies in this case, but I know in our state you need at least a 21 to qualify for the lottery scholarship.
  • BatesParents2019BatesParents2019 Registered User Posts: 801 Member
    edited June 2015
    @dec51995 Do you realize that the most selective test optional schools went test optional before the US News rankings ever existed? It was all based on research that the tests were not predictive. A lot of people from all different schools studied the issue as well. I can't speak for other schools but in the case of Bowdoin and Bates the idea grew from the teachers.

    Anyway it's probably best you put aside the conspiracy ideas because a 3.8 GPA student will not be happy at a school that accepts 20 ACT student's. That would equate to C+ students.

    Do you need some suggestions for good test optional schools?
  • Pennylane2011Pennylane2011 Registered User Posts: 2,716 Senior Member
    I'm wondering not about admission, but about the reasons for that score. Your nephew seems to be a strong student, so what is it about the test that could account for that score. I am thinking about issues that could possibly give him difficulty in college- such as needing more time than the test allows, difficulty with multiple choice questions, or if most sections were OK but one or two were difficult for him. Certainly test optional colleges are an option he should pursue, but also I would not want to overlook something that may give him trouble in college. Most colleges have learning centers, tutors, if he needs help with a subject.

    You said he is interested in the ministry? If this is the case, then is he interested in going directly into a college for that? The scores may be less of an issue for admission, but still ministry requires strong reading and language skills. Also the less selective colleges may be the ones that do not meet full financial need so that is a consideration as well. If finances are an issue, what are his local/state options?

    He sounds like a great kid, with a lot of ability. I think the key is to find the best fit for him- where he will do well and be happy.
  • HannaHanna Registered User Posts: 14,902 Senior Member
    "The score average will go up if those who score low don't submit scores."

    Yes, as long as non-submitters get in. You said, "Presumably, the schools reject students who apply test optional." That's wrong. If they rejected the students who applied test-optional, then the score average of the admitted class wouldn't go up.

    Let's say the admitted class is two students. Their scores are 30 and 20, with an average of 25. Now let's go score optional. I can admit the same two students, and presto! Now the class average is 30 because the 20 didn't submit his scores. This only works if I admit the non-submitter, not if I reject him.

    Now, is Mr. 20 a URM? Maybe, but if that's what the school's looking for, then he's getting the seat regardless. The fact that some seats may be reserved for full-payers, URMs, etc. does not change based on whether a school is score-optional or not. The bottom line is that a white male with a 20 is better off not submitting that score unless he has to.

    Regarding my tone, I was called to the thread via private message, and I came immediately and answered your question. And then I hear that no one offered a "real answer" and that I'm oversimplifying. Well, that's frustrating.
  • dec51995dec51995 Registered User Posts: 264 Junior Member
    @Pennylane2011: I'm a little concerned about his college readiness, too--especially on the reading front. I'm a teacher--as are his parents. I'm not sure what is going on with him. I've always suspected that his school is just pretty easy to get A's in. For example, in his chemistry class, the students didn't do a single lab! When you don't have enough students to require AP's or advanced math, students don't have much option to develop their intellects, and my nephew has always been drawn to sports and music more than to studies. I don't know anything but his composite score at this point. He would go from undergrad to the seminary--should he still have that interest in 5 years.

    As far as college choices, he's interested in LAC's, not state universities. Wants something small in a bucolic area, not a city school or a large university. I agree that if he goes for a less selective college, he might get gapped in financial aid. That's another cause for concern.

    I think I got distracted by the test optional argument, but you all have helped me see that it would be better to gamble on the test optional than to send him to a school with lower academic standards. I don't think it's quite a conspiracy theory, @BatesParent2019, and I also think that there's no such thing as a completely equitable college admission process. As @Hanna said, colleges are naturally going to choose the students that are best for the future of the school, and in this rankings-conscious age, schools need to consider their test scores and selectivity as a selling point. These articles referenced two studies about the effect of test optional policies on student composition. My information wasn't from a peer-reviewed journal, but the articles were published in reputable popular journals like Forbes and New York Times. The article itself mentioned that Bates was one of the schools that went test optional before the USNWR rankings ever existed, and I meant no disrespect to Bates. Still, it would be presumptuous to conclude that all the schools that jumped on the test optional bandwagon did so for the same idealistic reasons. Actually, my daughter, who is a high-stats kid, is really interested in Bard--not for it's test optional admission policy but for its great reputation and strong writing curriculum.

    Back to the article: Deans of several colleges were interviewed for comment. The Dean of Illinois Wesleyan (ironically, one of the schools on my nephew's list) came down firmly against test optional policies and argued that schools are using this for gamesmanship. My prediction is that this charge is not going to die out quickly.
  • Pennylane2011Pennylane2011 Registered User Posts: 2,716 Senior Member
    What region is he looking at? Maybe if posters know where he wishes to be, then they can make suggestions. I agree with matching him not just by scores, but also to be cautious about matching him to that 3.8 in a college where students get a 3.8 taking advanced classes. The goal here is for him to be successful at college, and look for college where he fits best. He can keep the selective colleges on his list, but include others as well.

    I also don't want to dismiss his potential by stating this, but for students who are in financial need and are gapped financially, and have not had the advantages of a challenging high school- a community college is a way to make that transition to college. It isn't a popular choice on CC, or the right fit for all students, but it can be an affordable option and a means to take some transitional classes- college algebra, reading, for students who can benefit from that preparation.

    I don't say this to undermine his capability, but from seeing students go off to college and then find they are not prepared. For a low income student, the consequences of this can find them returning home to work and pay off loans. Repeating classes at a 4 year college can be costly. It's hard to predict readiness sometimes, but any low scores make me consider erring on the side of caution. He can still apply where he wants, but have this as an option along with the others.
  • dec51995dec51995 Registered User Posts: 264 Junior Member
    @Hanna: I didn't read your last post before I submitted. Thanks for coming to the discussion. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I didn't think I got an answer because I was looking for a quantifiable effect of the ACT to schools in a specific category. Your statement that he might get in is true but not very helpful. Let me say my concern in a different way: I don't want him to play the lottery--I want him to have some options. He's my nephew!
  • Pennylane2011Pennylane2011 Registered User Posts: 2,716 Senior Member
    edited June 2015
    The dilemma is that the colleges that meet full need also tend to be the most selective- with very low admissions rates. There are also test optional colleges, but the ones that would not be as highly selective tend to not meet full need. The student who has lower test scores looking at test optional colleges has fewer choices.

    Nobody wants to see a student in a lottery situation, and I don't think it was Hana's intention when she posted her answer as it is an option to consider in addition to others. Some families do want to apply even if the chances are not high. This is why it is OK to have some "reach" schools on your list- it is possible, but too risky to only apply to them. Every student needs to have other options as well.

    As to colleges that are not as highly academically ranked- those that would take a student with an ACT score of 20, I would look at them individually. Some of them offer merit aid to high achieving students, and have honors programs, so it isn't necessarily a poor fit. A small college like this may be more nurturing to students and invested in their learning.

    Still, the finances are a concern, and a reality that needs to be factored in as well. I have known of students who have started at a CC and who have gone on successfully to four year colleges which is why I suggested it as one- not the only- but one of the options to consider.
  • dec51995dec51995 Registered User Posts: 264 Junior Member
    @Pennylane: I missed your post with my last, too. Yes, I've also considered the CC route. Thanks for your info about gapping and less selective colleges. As I said in an earlier thread, I don't have experience with the less selective LAC's, and I had no idea that this was an issue. I took your suggestion and found a couple of schools that claim to meet full need but aren't highly selective. You're right--they are few and far between--but I now have two to add to the list. Thanks!

    I'm okay with some reaches. I just don't want to see him apply to a whole slough of schools he's unlikely to get into.
  • Pennylane2011Pennylane2011 Registered User Posts: 2,716 Senior Member
    I am glad you found some options. Another consideration- is that it may open more doors as after two years of credits, many colleges do not ask for SAT/ACT scores. This could make some more affordable schools ( in state, full need colleges) possible if he has a good academic record.

    What region of the country is he looking at?
This discussion has been closed.