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How much weight do these test scores carry in selective college admissions?

Scubaski1Scubaski1 79 replies11 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
edited August 25 in College Admissions
My daughter tests well and I’m curious if/how much of an admission advantage her scores may give her to highly selective engineering schools. I understand it is just one data point and she has many other strong data points - high GPA, extracurriculars, natl. awards, leadership, philanthropy, etc...

But she thinks once you meet the selective schools’ high test thresholds, her scores won’t standout at all from others as “everyone is getting these scores.” She attends a competitive HS and all her friends are applying to Stanford/ MIT/ Princeton, etc. I think she’s afraid to apply to these schools (says she won’t get in), though she admits her scores are better than her peers who are applying there. I think she’s undervaluing her scores and competitiveness a bit, but she disagrees. What do you think?

Here are her scores:

SAT w/writing - 1580
SAT Math II subject - 800
SAT Chem subject - 790
PSAT 1500/226 index (should qualify for Natl. Merit I think as index is well above last year’s cutoff)

AP scores - A “5” score on Chemistry, Biology, Calc BC, English LA, US History, and Geography. A “4” score on World History... She is currently taking AP Physics C, AP Lit, AP Govt, AP Econ, AP French


edited August 25
16 replies
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Replies to: How much weight do these test scores carry in selective college admissions?

  • skieuropeskieurope 38838 replies6858 threadsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    edited August 25
    I think she’s undervaluing her scores a bit, but she disagrees. What do you think?
    Your daughter's right IMO, at least for the colleges listed. For MIT, every accepted applicant has a 780+ Math Subject Test score. (hyperbole.It's more like 75%+). For the rest, once you hit 750, I think AOs move on to look at the rest of the applications. AP scores mean little in the admissions process.

    Which is not to say that the scores are not awesome; clearly they are.But there is just so much more that goes into an application. Clearly scores are important, but 760 vs.780 vs.800 won;t be the determining factor.
    edited August 25
    Post edited by skieurope on
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 6971 replies49 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Your D is right and being realistic. For the schools you mentioned, the majority of applicants are going to have high test scores and GPA . That said, your D's scores certainly put her in the ballpark to apply if she wants to put in a few applications to reach schools.


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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33453 replies363 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Stats are like the bones. The rest of the app is what will "flesh out" the view of her as a candidate. And make her "match"- or not. The trick is to understand enough about what else matters to college targets, be able to assess yourself against that, and present that match. Remember, it's holistic, not hierarchical. (That includes, not "best at" or "better awards" or more of whatever.)

    It's true most contenders will have top stats and rigor. If she's thinking tippy tops, it's a ferocius competition. Most finalists will nail EC expectations (which goes far beyond some clubs, some awards, etc,) and present the level of awareness and thinking tippy tops expect.

    If she feels more comofrtable with a less competitive college, listen to her. Remember, "competitive" isn't just about admit chances, it's also about the bar once there.
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  • Rivet2000Rivet2000 1050 replies2 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    From a test score perspective (SAT and subject tests), she should consider herself competitive at any school she's interested in (she should be confident in that). That said there are many other dimensions that come to play in a competitive application. Interested in hearing more.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6573 replies54 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Even though we have been doing the admissions dance for waaay too many years (with any luck this is the last one...) I am still surprised by the sheer numbers of students with super-high stats backed up with dazzling ECs.

    So yes, your daughter is being realistic that scores only get you so far. That said:
    1) she shouldn't undersell herself, and should run her own race: if she is actually interested in a famous name school for herself, she should use her 'reach' slots for that
    and
    2) navigating Sept-Apr in an academically competitive school is HARD. One self protection measure that is effective is simply refusing to talk to anybody about colleges applied to until a college is chosen (one of my collegekids classmates refused to tell anybody where she was going to college until graduation). My favorite way is to ID a bunch of safeties and matches and change the 'front-runner' every couple of weeks: "I'm really into College X b/c of their Y program" "Actually, I'm thinking more about College P these days- the location is perfect for what I want to do" "I've kind of gone back to College C now- the more I think about their resources, the more I think that's the better choice" etc. Advantages: it spurs identification of specific "why College A" work (useful for those 'why us' essays), it establishes that she is evaluating colleges in a range of metrics, and if famous name college doesn't work out, she (and her peers) already know that she is going to a place she is genuinely excited about.
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  • RichInPittRichInPitt 795 replies10 threadsRegistered User Member
    Those scores will get her in the narrowed-down group of students that warrant serious consideration. They won’t standout from the several thousand in the same range, and, yes, a bit lower, but they will certainly standout from the tens of thousands for which top schools are a reach (or a dream).

    I.e., 1580 won’t put a lot of space between her and a 1550 in the standardized score component, but it will differentiate from many, many 1450-1520’s.

    The data simply demonstrates that not ‘everyone’ is getting those scores. If she’s interested, the data on number of test takers and percentiles for Subject Tests is readily available. And SAT scores can be reasonably estimated.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 29240 replies57 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    They make a huge difference. If you look at % admitted at various test score ranges, it’s very clear that bring in the upper echelon there gives a candidate significant advantage.
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  • Darcy123Darcy123 255 replies6 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    My first piece advice is to ignore what anyone else is doing. We’ve heard a lot of people throwing in an app at Harvard or Stanford just cause heh why not who don’t have the stats. My daughter also has the stats but has pretty much ruled out all the tippytops. There’s one I’m biting my tongue in as I think it’s a good fit for her particular extra-curricular - but they have no ED and she really wants to be done in Dec. If she’s rejected or deferred I might encourage her to throw a RD Hail Mary - but we’ve spent 90% of our time identifying great fit schools which aren’t sub10% admittance. Is she qualified - sure but so are many many others.
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  • VeryapparentVeryapparent 874 replies16 threadsRegistered User Member
    I agree with others... she makes the first cut... the rest is so difficult to determine. Those scores though do set her up nicely for merit awards at the 25-100 ranked schools that offer it. In our experience it was a win win for merit.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 77688 replies678 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    At the most selective colleges, high stats are necessary but not sufficient for admission. I.e. high stats just let the applicant join the crowd of those with realistic (but small) chance of admission, while low stats make admission unrealistic.
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  • CU123CU123 3538 replies65 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I'll explain it as it was explained to me by an admissions officer at an ultra selective College. Half the pie is academics, of which 2/3 is your GPA and 1/3 is your test scores. The other half of the admissions pie is EC's and essays which are weighted evenly. So you can see that the scores are only making up about 1/3 of 1/2 of the pie. 1/6 of the pie is a piece but not a big piece.
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  • dropbox77177dropbox77177 183 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited August 25
    It's easy to think that there are many students presenting 1580 SAT + 790/800 subject tests, but there really aren't. Those standardized scores, assuming correspondingly high GPA and given the already achieved National AP Scholar designation with "real" AP tests (not AP Psych, CSP, or APES, etc.) will place your daughter comfortably in the top 10% of the applicant pool by stats of any college or university, except perhaps Caltech and MIT.

    Female STEM is likely to be an edge as well. Stats alone of course won't get her in, but to think that they won't be a significant plus factor is wrong in my opinion.
    edited August 25
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  • happy1happy1 22754 replies2239 threadsVerified Member Senior Member
    Your D's academic stats will get her past the first hurdle and I think her application will get a serious look anywhere she applies. I would encourage your D to apply to a couple of the top tier colleges and see what happens -- this way she will never have to wonder "what if". That said, as others have noted admissions to these colleges (many of which have admission rates in the single digits) is never a sure thing and will depend on a number of aspects of the application that can be easily quantified and which we don't see on CC (ex. essays, recommendations, ECs etc.)

    As I would tell anyone, I recommend that your D craft a a college application list that includes reach, match, and safety schools that appear affordable (run the net price calculator for each school) and that she would be happy to attend.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 6971 replies49 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    It's easy to think that there are many students presenting 1580 SAT + 790/800 subject tests, but there really aren't

    Except the top students from all over the world are sending in their apps to the same elite schools.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33453 replies363 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    ^ Agree. That's the real point. If you're applying to tippy tops, you face the competition from other top performers applying to those schools. It's not about the general results of the vast pool of kids taking the standardized tests. After "first cut," at tippy tops, the bulk of the applicants *are* those top stats kids.

    And there really is no formula to point to that explains how the "pie" is split. In holistic- and for the very most selective colleges- every piece matters and any flaw, omission, or lacking can be a problem.
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  • dropbox77177dropbox77177 183 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited August 25
    After "first cut," at tippy tops, the bulk of the applicants *are* those top stats kids.
    Not likely. Caltech probably has the highest average standardized test scores, and its 75th percentile is 1570 SAT. It's mathematically impossible that scores for the "bulk" of applicants making it past the first screen are therefore anywhere near 1580 SAT/790-800 SAT2, since the average enrolled student's scores are lower. The same analysis can be generalized to the other tippy tops, most of which have substantially lower scores than Caltech.

    Stepping back, we can see that about 3000 students total get SAT scores of 1570+ in the entire testing pool nationwide, and you can probably add another 2000 unique students with equivalent ACT 36 scores (there are approximately 3000 of these students, but for sure many also take the SAT and achieve 1570+ and so are already counted in the SAT figure).
    '
    Depending on how one defines "tippy top," there are at least 20-30,000 entering freshmen every year, perhaps substantially more if you include schools not in the USNWR T20. The Ivies alone constitute maybe 14,000? 1580 SAT + 790/800 subject test scores will be within the top 10% of the applicant pool for any tippy top in America, with the possible exception of Caltech and MIT (where they will no doubt be within the top 20%). Again, scores are not everything, but they are not nothing either.
    edited August 25
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