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Is SAT 25th or 75th percentile a better indicator of how much schools care about the SAT (or ACT)?

2

Replies to: Is SAT 25th or 75th percentile a better indicator of how much schools care about the SAT (or ACT)?

  • Data10Data10 Registered User Posts: 2,824 Senior Member
    edited March 2
    I was looking at the average SAT scores for schools, and I noticed some interesting things. For one, the University of Michigan has the same SAT scores as Princeton (1380-1540), even though Princeton is much more competitive.
    The latest CDS shows very different numbers:
    Michigan 25th -- 660/670; Princeton 25th -- 710/720
    Michigan 75th -- 730/780, Princeton 75th -- 780/790
    Harvard's 25 percentile (1470) is a full 80 points higher than Stanford's (1390).
    The latest CDS also lists different numbers for Stanford:
    Harvard 25th -- 730/730, Stanford 25th -- 700/720
    Also, Yale's 75th percentile is 1600, the only school with a quarter of students achieving perfect scores
    The CDS does not list a 800 on verbal for yale, but more importatantly, if 25% of students received a 800 on math and 25% of students received an 800 on verbal, it does not mean 25% of students received a 1600. Most of those students probably received 800 on one section, but not the other. ~40% of matriculating students did not report the SAT at all. I expect many of this not reporting group scored less than 1600 as well.
    So, as a baseline for how much schools value standardized testing, is the 25th or 75th percentile a better indicator, or are they even good indicators at all?
    For colleges like HYPSM, SAT score percentiles is not a particularly good indicator of how much score is valued because the colleges primarily admit on non-score criteria that has some degree of correlation with score. MIT's website explains this more eloquently than I can in the quote below

    "Now, I and others are on the record as saying that we admit people, not test scores, and that in any case there is really not a difference in our process between someone who scores, say, a 740 on the SAT math, and someone who scores an 800 on the SAT math. So why, as the commentor asks, is there such a difference in the admit rate? Aha! Clearly we DO prefer higher SAT scores!

    Well no, we don’t. What we prefer are things which may coincide with higher SAT scores. For example, a student who receives a gold medal at the IMO is probably more likely to score an 800 on the math SAT than a 740. But if we take an IMO medalist (with an 800) over random applicant X (with a 740), does that mean we preferred an 800 to a 740? No. It means we preferred the IMO medalist, who also happened to get an 800!"


    If a HYPSM type college did not consider scores at all in their application process, they'd still have a very high score range due a high scoring applicant pool and selecting for characteristics that are correlated with score (high GPA, high course rigor, stellar LORs, impressive out of classroom achievements, etc.). However, there would be a larger number of anomalies at the low end, so I'd expect the 25th percentile to have more notable decreases. We see this effect in test optional colleges. For example, a comparison of score ranges for Bowdoin (test optional) to other top ranked LACs is below. I used ACT instead of SAT for simplicity. Note that Bowdoin has all matriculating students take either SAT or ACT and reports all students, even though it is not considered in application process for non-submitters. The gap is larger in 25th percentile than 75th, when tests are not considered for a large portion of applicants.

    Bowdoin -- 30-34
    Amherst -- 31-34
    Swarthmore -- 31-34

    A similar effect occurs when a large portion of applicants are given strong preference, such as strong hooks. Hooks have more impact on the 25th percentile score than the 75th percentile score, so a lower 25th also can have implications on hook preferences.

    If you want to guess at how much score impacts admissions by score ranges, you might look for colleges that having higher/lower score ranges than suggested by their selectivity and/or give scholarships for high stats or NMS. Vanderbilt is a good example. An ACT comparison is below. Vanderbilt has a higher score range than HYPS (and all the LACs listed above), even though most would consider Vanderbilt less selective than HYPS. Both the 25th and 75th percentile scores seem higher than expected. You can confirm by reviewing Naviance and similar scattergrams. Scattergram decisions for Vanderbilt seem to better follow scores than HYPS, particularly for the 75th percentile.

    Vanderbilt -- 33-35
    Harvard -- 32-35
    Yale -- 32-35
    Princeton -- 31-35
    Stanford -- 32-35

  • damon30damon30 Registered User Posts: 979 Member
    This question captured my interest. From BigFuture, e.g. https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/college-university-search/cornell-university

    SAT middle 50s
    Brown 1410-1570
    Columbia 1450-1580
    Cornell 1390-1550
    Dartmouth 1430-1560
    Duke 1490-1560
    Harvard 1460-1580
    MIT 1490-1570
    Princeton 1430-1570
    UPenn 1420-1560
    Stanford 1420-1570
    Yale 1420-1590

    Test scores importance
    Brown - Very Important
    Columbia - Very Important
    Cornell - Very Important
    Dartmouth - Very Important
    Duke - Very Important
    Harvard - Considered
    MIT - Important
    Princeton - Very Important
    UPenn - Very Important
    Stanford - Very Important
    Yale - Very Important

    Only MIT had "Character/Personal Qualities" ranked higher than test scores importance. (Harvard had everything "Considered".) All top schools had the SAT Math 75 percentile at either 790 or 800. Cornell had the lowest overall 25 (1390) and 75 percentiles (1550) . Duke and MIT tied for highest 25 percentiles (1490) and Yale had the highest 75 percentile (1590).
  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 Registered User Posts: 1,553 Senior Member
    edited March 2
    ^^^I would not use CollegeBoard as the source for this info. I don't know where they get their data from, or what year they represent, but they do not match the CDSs (which is the best source data) for the last couple years (at least for Brown and Cornell).

    Further, when I look at the Cornell and Brown SAT scores on CollegeBoard at the link in #17, they seem to be making the same mistake that so many do---adding the EBRW 25-75 scores to the Math 25-75 scores to get composite 25-75 scores, which is not accurate as datadad points out in post #16. Seems like CollegeBoard should know better.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 31,905 Senior Member
    Those figures are not the way to determine. The higher numbers represent the nature of the competition and how they can cherry pick, in the end. I(Assuming the kid passes muster in the entire review.)

    t's no indication that scores are more or less important- to a college or among colleges. And we all should know that the 25th percentile can be all sorts of kids wanted for other assets, like their athletic prowess, legacy, some amazing kid whose scores are lopsided, and on and on.

    Stanford used to show score ranges and percent admitted. At one point, Brown and Dart did. PLENTY of "above average" scorers got rejected- the vast majority. These schools are holistic, you don't get to submit scores, then sleep walk through the rest of the app.

    Btw, the CDS section on Most Important, etc, is not policed. Colleges can answer anyway they feel. And No One Category trumps the others, regardless of whether it's called Very Important or not.
  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 Registered User Posts: 1,553 Senior Member
    Btw, the CDS section on Most Important, etc, is not policed. Colleges can answer anyway they feel. And No One Category trumps the others, regardless of whether it's called Very Important or not.

    Exactly. Those answers can also vary by program/dept/school within a college/uni, and just to stay with the Cornell example, enough people have heard in admissions presentations that they do in fact track interest and it can help applicants (but the CDS says not considered).
  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 42,866 Super Moderator
    ^I would not use CollegeBoard as the source for this info.
    I would not use any secondary source for this info. It may be old. Or it may just be wrong.
    they seem to making the same mistake that so many do---adding the EBRW 25-75 scores to the Math 25-75 scores to get composite 25-75 scores,
    A very common error. But again, just because everyone makes that error doe not mean it's less wrong. :)
  • damon30damon30 Registered User Posts: 979 Member
    ^^^I would not use CollegeBoard as the source for this info. I don't know where they get their data from, or what year they represent, but they do not match the CDSs (which is the best source data) for the last couple years (at least for Brown and Cornell).

    This is what they say about their sources.
    PLEASE NOTE: College profiles are based primarily on information supplied by the colleges themselves in response to the College Board's Annual Survey of Colleges, with some data provided via federal and state agencies. Costs, dates, policies, and programs are subject to change, so please confirm important facts with college admission personnel.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 31,905 Senior Member
    Here. https://admission.princeton.edu/how-apply/admission-statistics Princeton is the other tippy top that has reported percentage of admits and etc, off and on, over the years.

    8% of 4.0 unweighted gpa kids got accepted. Sorry, but that means 92% got rejected. We know stats are a significant factor, but you can see they are NO guarantee. Nor are they are they less important, just because 92% got rejected; there are only so many spaces.


    Understand what holistic means, in practice. Understand how important it is to truly understand a college, nt just your own hs status, dreams, and wants. You need to nail any Why Us. Be looking over your shoulder, lol.
  • evergreen5evergreen5 Registered User Posts: 1,367 Senior Member
    About the numbers from Big Future in post #17:

    Brown 1410-1570 - not quite matches adding the 25th section scores and 75th from CDS for class of 2021 (from NCES; has a 705)
    Columbia 1450-1580 - can't figure out where this comes from, but matches a Compass Prep list (at least one other college in that list is definitely wrong; might just be old)
    Cornell 1390-1550 - this matches adding the 25th section scores and 75th from CDS for class of 2021 (NCES)
    Dartmouth 1430-1560 - this matches adding the 25th section scores and 75th from CDS for class of 2021 (NCES)
    Duke 1490-1560 - this matches the class profile admitted for class of 2022
    Harvard 1460-1580 - this matches adding the 25th section scores and 75th from CDS for class of 2021 (NCES)
    MIT 1490-1570 - this matches adding the 25th section scores and 75th from CDS for class of 2021 (NCES)
    Princeton 1430-1570 - this matches adding the 25th section scores and 75th from CDS for class of 2021 (NCES)
    UPenn 1420-1560 - this matches adding the 25th section scores and 75th from CDS for class of 2021 (NCES)
    Stanford 1420-1570 this matches adding the 25th section scores and 75th from CDS for class of 2022 (Stanford website)
    Yale 1420-1590 - this matches adding the 25th section scores and 75th from CDS for class of 2021 (Yale website; curiously, the 25th and 75th section scores from the 2017-18 CDS do not match the NCES data for fall of 2017)
  • damon30damon30 Registered User Posts: 979 Member
    Btw, the CDS section on Most Important, etc, is not policed. Colleges can answer anyway they feel. And No One Category trumps the others, regardless of whether it's called Very Important or not.

    @lookingforward To your point, the bullet point list (Very Important, Important, Considered, etc.) from the College Board survey can vary considerably from what they say in the "A Note From the College" text box. For example Cornell:
    Very Important

    Academic GPA
    Application Essay
    Character/Personal Qualities
    Extracurricular Activities
    Recommendations
    Rigor of secondary school record
    Standardized Test Scores
    Talent/Ability
    A Note From the College

    School achievement record (difficulty of courses, grades earned), test scores, preparation and background for specific programs especially important. Essays, recommendations and extracurricular engagement considered.

    If I was applying to Cornell, I think I would pay close attention to that "preparation and background for specific programs" comment. (I actually did apply to Cornell back in the day and was rejected, but I think I probably did no research at all about the school.)
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 31,905 Senior Member
    Here's the old format for Stanford, from the class starting fall 2016. Hope it's enlightening for anyone who hasn't seen things like this. https://admission.stanford.edu/apply/selection/profile16.html Anyone can search for this stuff.

    So 18% of applicants had an 800M and only 8% of those got admitted, but they form a large part of the class. Even larger, those with 700-799. This is not that "Stanford cares noticeably less" about scores. It's that Stanford, with 44k apps for roughly 2100 admit letters, cares about the entire picture one presents.

    Just because someone is tops in their own hs doesn't mean they get it. You can certainly blow it. Meanwhile, some kid with a 750 might be right behind you, presenting the "whole" they want to see, the sorts of activities, challenges and impact, the thinking and perspective. The energy to NOT look at any of this simplistically or superficially.

    Same goes for all the top/tippy top holistic colleges. They care about stats, but also more than stats.

    @damon30, that "preparation and background" is critical. Some posters claim that, unless a college admits to specific programs (college of engn, school of music, whatever,) it doesn't matter. But it does. Academic and activities. And thinking. The level of one's thinking drives a lot of choices. Or not.
    :)
  • Jedelm23Jedelm23 Registered User Posts: 106 Junior Member
    @lookingforward That data is very interesting, I wonder why Stanford (and other schools) stopped doing it. Maybe because it is getting increasingly competitive and the admissions office doesn't want to discourage applicants?
  • RockySoilRockySoil Registered User Posts: 105 Junior Member
    There are only 300-600 students a year who get a 1600 on the SAT (I think the number is more like 2800 for a 36 on the ACT). Even if all of them went HYPSM (and they don't), that is only 80 or so 1600's per school, nowhere near 25% of anyone's class. Stanford alone seems to have had more than 7000 applicants in 2016 who scored 800 on the Math section and 4400 with 800 in EBWR, but there can't be much overlap between those groups according to the numbers.
  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk Registered User Posts: 2,155 Senior Member
    edited March 3
    "8% of 4.0 unweighted gpa kids got accepted. Sorry, but that means 92% got rejected. We know stats are a significant factor, but you can see they are NO guarantee"

    Who keeps saying it's a guarantee? You're the only that says these generalizations only to knock them down later in your post. Anyway 8% is low but the 1380-1490 is 4.5%, meaning that the 1500-1600 has almost double the chance of getting in.

    "Meanwhile, some kid with a 750 might be right behind you, presenting the "whole" they want to see, the sorts of activities, challenges and impact, the thinking and perspective."

    The flaw in this logic is simple, you keep assuming that the 800 kid is incapable of thinking like the 750 kid, that the 800 kid is relying only on the test scores and has only done that in high school while the 750 kid is holistically getting in. That's not the case, 1600/36 kids do real well in college admissions, better than the 1500/34 kids. The numbers show that. You seem to encourage purposely not getting a perfect score on these tests, because then colleges will see you holistically, as a human being. If you get a 1600 or 36, well then you might be a test taking robot that colleges don't want. Again, not the case, there are ton of 1600/36s walking on Stanford, Harvard, Yale, MIT, Princeton et al. They don't really accept any 1200s who think they can change the world and have the holistic app.
  • emorynavyemorynavy Registered User Posts: 398 Member
    In some ways yes. If you look at a schools CDS profile, it will show you the percentage of martriculates that fall into a certain subset of test scores. For instance, WashU doesn't have any students that scored below a 600 on each section unlike all of the others mentioned.
    Also, Umich seems to one of the few to release the latest CDS and it seems to be 1330-1510(non-concorded), and a 30-34. Either the highest or second highest for a public school.
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