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Replies to: "What College Admissions Offices Really Want"

  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 7274 replies56 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I'm not surprised by much in this article in terms of the dance between increasing socio economic diversity and budget constraints.

    What stood out for me is that students with higher SAT/ACT scores than their GPAs suggest are red flags for admissions.
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  • cinnamon1212cinnamon1212 438 replies6 threadsRegistered User Member
    I also wonder about so called need blind schools. It is only one anecdote, but my son filled out Emory's recruiting questionnaire, and the very first question they asked was " are you applying for financial aid?" He's probably filled out 20 of those questionnaires and no other school has that question.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78244 replies690 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 10
    What stood out for me is that students with higher SAT/ACT scores than their GPAs suggest are red flags for admissions.

    It is the "smart but lazy" stereotype that is sometimes mentioned on these forums. (Or perhaps not so smart, but with SAT/ACT scores boosted by test prep and other advantages related to high SES.)

    Note that USNWR ranking does favor heavy weight on SAT/ACT scores in its student selection component.

    But also note that the article mentions that only about a third of students have "discrepent" SAT/ACT scores versus their HS GPA, meaning SAT/ACT scores significantly higher or lower than normally associated with their HS GPAs. The ones with higher SAT/ACT scores tend to be from more advantaged backgrounds, while those with lower SAT/ACT scores tend to be from less advantaged backgrounds. So the relative level of emphasis on SAT/ACT scores versus HS GPA can be used to adjust SES background level of the class as a whole, without necessarily having to be need-aware for individual applicants.

    The article also discusses issues of yield and tuition yield that can be estimated for any given admit class that the admissions office is considering admitting (note that Trinity is need-aware for individual applicants in admissions, so that high-FA-need applicants were being cut at the end when tuition yield estimates were falling short). ED and athletic admissions are also mentioned as having the effect of skewing the admit class toward higher SES backgrounds.
    edited September 10
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78244 replies690 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 10
    I also wonder about so called need blind schools. It is only one anecdote, but my son filled out Emory's recruiting questionnaire, and the very first question they asked was " are you applying for financial aid?" He's probably filled out 20 of those questionnaires and no other school has that question.

    There are plenty of ways for a college which is need-blind for individual applicants to tip the admit class toward higher or lower SES, without looking at the applicants' FA applications or even if they applied for FA.

    Of course, at the cost of high ranked private colleges today, the question "are you applying for financial aid?" is basically equivalent to "is your parents' income in the bottom 96% of the US income distribution?". From a recruiting standpoint, a college may be trying to change applicant volume from higher or lower SES applicants, while still being need-blind for individual applicants while reading their applications.
    edited September 10
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1371 replies35 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    ucbalumnus wrote: »
    But also note that the article mentions that only about a third of students have "discrepent" SAT/ACT scores versus their HS GPA, meaning SAT/ACT scores significantly higher or lower than normally associated with their HS GPAs. The ones with higher SAT/ACT scores tend to be from more advantaged backgrounds, while those with lower SAT/ACT scores tend to be from less advantaged backgrounds.
    That discrepancy is also partly due to the types of K-12 schools students of different SES attend. Low-SES students tend to go to less demanding and less rigorous schools, which in turn produce higher class ranks and higher relative GPAs.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78244 replies690 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    1NJParent wrote: »
    That discrepancy is also partly due to the types of K-12 schools students of different SES attend. Low-SES students tend to go to less demanding and less rigorous schools, which in turn produce higher class ranks and higher relative GPAs.

    https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2018/09/24/new-study-shows-widespread-grade-inflation-high-schools referencing https://fordhaminstitute.org/national/research/grade-inflation-high-schools-2005-2016 suggests that there is more grade inflation in higher SES schools.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34149 replies378 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Just because they ask about FA doesnt mean the college downloads that bit to admissions.

    This isn't about the "inner workings." More about the challenges faced by a few schools. A lot more goes into being an attractive target than just marketing or offering better FA. I wonder how many on CC know about Trinity.

    And there are great kids coming from under-resourced hs. But what makes a larger collective group of the best of them interested in Trinity?

    On top of that, in some areas, the lure of local U's outweighs some named college out of their area. You can't achieve some perfect SES balance without the applicants.

    So, first fact to look at is who's applying in droves to top colleges. Sure, it's kids from wealthier and more stable families. You don't look at the end result (more wealthier matriculants) and assume it's the college "preferring" them.

    Nor do I like assumptions these lower SES kids are less able.
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1371 replies35 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 10
    ucbalumnus wrote: »
    1NJParent wrote: »
    That discrepancy is also partly due to the types of K-12 schools students of different SES attend. Low-SES students tend to go to less demanding and less rigorous schools, which in turn produce higher class ranks and higher relative GPAs.

    https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2018/09/24/new-study-shows-widespread-grade-inflation-high-schools referencing https://fordhaminstitute.org/national/research/grade-inflation-high-schools-2005-2016 suggests that there is more grade inflation in higher SES schools.
    These types of studies often produce contradictory results, without full understanding of the underlying drivers and mechanisms. How often do we hear from one study that something is good/bad for you but later contradicted by another such study?
    edited September 10
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  • dropbox77177dropbox77177 266 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited September 10
    Financial aid is necessary to attract the very best kids. That is why you will find such a strong positive correlation between the generosity of financial aid and the perceived (and actual) quality of the student body. As only 3-5% or so of families can be full pay at the top 50 private university/college level, there are simply not enough high quality wealthy kids to go around. Once you understand that, much of the college admissions puzzle becomes solvable.
    edited September 10
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  • dadof4kidsdadof4kids 651 replies64 threadsRegistered User Member
    Great read, if a bit depressing. It reinforces my feelings about the application cycle for D21. I will be a bit surprised, but not shocked, if she sends out 10 applications to selective schools with 8 great admits, or with none. I have a feeling she will make her way to that last round of cuts at many colleges. Definitely qualified, but also definitely needing financial aid, and still a white girl with college educated parents who maybe isn't poor enough to add the diversity they are looking for.
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  • TheGreyKingTheGreyKing 2153 replies101 threadsForum Champion Williams College Forum Champion
    What was interesting in this article was that there were some low SES— high achievement kids who were rejected while some high SES— lower achievement kids were accepted. That is surprising and disheartening.

    I expect that, always and forever, there will be proportionally more higher SES students at the top colleges... just because their parents may have been smart top achievers like they themselves are, and thus able to obtain well-paying jobs after the first generation. So it is no surprise if top colleges naturally will skew toward higher incomes if they accept high-achieving students.

    But I really want to believe colleges’ party line that they are trying to find and admit the best and brightest students regardless of their ability to pay, and that there always would be a home at a top college for kids who achieve at a high level despite the challenges they may need to overcome related to a low income and other barriers to success.

    This article throws some doubt on that belief.

    (Just a quick aside: Regarding “grade inflation”: I don’t think everything has to be graded on a curve and some people have to fail! I am all for standard-based grading vs. curve-based grading. And if you grade against a standard, schools with lots of overachiever types will have higher average GPA’s. My sons’ high school friends who did well in high school are doing well at college, including at academically elite colleges. His friends who goofed off in high school and are at so-so colleges are getting C’s in those so-so colleges. I would expect many Harvard students to earn A’s at Harvard, etc.)
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78244 replies690 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 10
    1NJParent wrote: »
    ucbalumnus wrote: »
    1NJParent wrote: »
    That discrepancy is also partly due to the types of K-12 schools students of different SES attend. Low-SES students tend to go to less demanding and less rigorous schools, which in turn produce higher class ranks and higher relative GPAs.

    https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2018/09/24/new-study-shows-widespread-grade-inflation-high-schools referencing https://fordhaminstitute.org/national/research/grade-inflation-high-schools-2005-2016 suggests that there is more grade inflation in higher SES schools.
    These types of studies often produce contradictory results, without full understanding of the underlying drivers and mechanisms.

    In this study, they compared grades earned in the course to scores on the end-of-course (EOC) exam for the course (a state standardized test on the material covered in the course). They found that students in higher SES schools were likely to have higher grades for the same EOC scores.
    edited September 10
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34149 replies378 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @dadof4kids It takes a lot more than diversity to get into a top college. In the end, her app/supps will carry a lot more weight than educated parents and 'not poor enough.' Focus on those, showing her match in enough aspects.

    Adcoms I know don't talk about predicting college grades, during the review process. They do talk about making it through to graduation or succeeding in a particular major. Or, if there's some uncertainty about a tough major, like engineering, finding other strengths in the app that suggest a kid can successfully slide to another major.

    The fixation on college grades mystifies me. Of course it can matter, if you want employment in an industry that vets for that. But the top colleges aren't sitting there calculating a kid's chances of an A gpa vs a B.
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  • cinnamon1212cinnamon1212 438 replies6 threadsRegistered User Member
    @lookingforward I dont think this is about issues at a few colleges, I think factoring financial need to the admissions decision happens at *most* colleges. Most are not need blind, most don't have endowments in the billions.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78244 replies690 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    The fixation on college grades mystifies me. Of course it can matter, if you want employment in an industry that vets for that. But the top colleges aren't sitting there calculating a kid's chances of an A gpa vs a B.

    Those most selective colleges are not worried about students' college grades, because they have strong students and high grade inflation, so that almost all students will earn GPA > 3.0 that is the most common employer screen (and are more likely to be well connected), and hardly any will drop out for academic reasons.

    But less selective colleges do have to be concerned about potential academic dropouts or those who need to repeat some courses over 6 years to graduate, and face difficult job searches due to being screened out by GPA < 3.0.
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  • dropbox77177dropbox77177 266 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited September 10
    I dont think this is about issues at a few colleges, I think factoring financial need to the admissions decision happens at *most* all colleges.

    FTFY!

    Every school factors need into the decisionmaking calculus. The very wealthiest, however, have the luxury of predetermining which cohorts are likely to have which quantifiable financial needs, and can therefore adjust their internal admissions policies accordingly. They can then maintain that they are "need-blind" at the level of the individual applicant.
    edited September 10
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  • MWolfMWolf 1497 replies10 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    While the information provided in the article is important and well researched, the title is misleading. I really hate it when the NYT uses such clickbait-y titles, especially when it's for a relatively serious article.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34149 replies378 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Agree with MWolfe and a bit frustrated by the effort ti make anything NYT says into universals.

    Agree it's "representative," of a swath of colleges, cinnamon.

    But it's not as simple as B or 6 years or dropping out. Nor can anyone say, "Every school factors need into the decisionmaking calculus." Make some statements more general or cite a source.
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