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Which top schools value SAT/ACT scores over GPA/rank?

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Replies to: Which top schools value SAT/ACT scores over GPA/rank?

  • bluebayoubluebayou Registered User Posts: 25,810 Senior Member
    OP:

    search for colleges that give out large merit awards for NMSF's....they are after high test scores. And, ditto above, USC is one of them.
  • siserunesiserune Registered User Posts: 1,625 Senior Member
    bclintonk wrote:
    I think you're missing the point.

    I think there is a lot of confusion about this question due to failure to quantify what "the point" is. Having near-zero admission below some level of grades or class rank is something that is also true of tests. The sensitivity to tests is already comparable to that for grades when considering SAT alone, and would increase if you consider the full battery of SAT-II, AP, IB, and the national exam competitions in math, physics, Latin, etc.

    At the most selective schools, you're just not in the running if you don't have top HS grades.

    And the same is true for test scores. The cutoffs are at similar percentiles. Going up from there, tests have more potential for distinguishing candidates and the admissions figures reflect this.

    Look at the figures: at schools like HYPS, 95% to 98% of the entering class are in the top 10% of their HS class, and a phenomenal number are vals or sals. Princeton, for example, reports that 96.8% of the students enrolled in their class of 2012 were ranked in the top decile of their HS class.

    The top decile of SAT is around 1940-50. Princeton doesn't admit too many of those, either. Scores below 1900 get in at 2.3 percent. In the 1900-2090 range they take 6.2 percent. A rough extrapolation from their table suggests around 3-4 percent admission below the highest decile of SAT. This is close to, but slightly more permissive, than what the figure for class rank suggests.

    That's at the bottom of the range.

    At the top the story is different. For scorers near the top of the SAT and ACT scale, the rate of admission reaches 40-50 percent. Princeton takes scorers of 2300+ at a rate of 28 percent. Brown's web site shows 50 percent acceptance with perfect ACT versus 30 percent for val/sal. The historical equivalent at HYP for perfect SAT (new scale, I think) was around 40 percent. At Princeton, perfect GPAs get in at only 16.4 percent.

    The test scale simply goes higher. There are tens of thousands of valedictorians each year and not nearly as many perfect or near-perfect SAT and ACT or students with a two-digit number of perfect APs.
  • sacchisacchi Registered User Posts: 2,133 Senior Member
    I'm glad to see this thread getting some traffic again.

    bluebayou, thanks for the NMSF merit award suggestion. I hadn't considered that because S is likely to be Commended rather than SF (PSAT 217 in NJ), so won't be eligible. But it does make sense that they are the ones chasing high test scores.

    Other posters have indicated the at "top" schools, high test scores doesn't make up for a less-than-stellar GPA. How about if we expanded the definition of top to not be tippy-top, but still with quite well-regarded academic programs?

    I maintain the hope that if S ends up at a suitably-challenging, appropriately fitting school, his interest level and motivation will kick in more consistently, and hence he will live up to his potential.
  • bluebayoubluebayou Registered User Posts: 25,810 Senior Member
    Other posters have indicated the at "top" schools, high test scores doesn't make up for a less-than-stellar GPA.

    Definitely true for unhooked candidates at the top 10 level. But, several colleges slightly down the food chain are looking to move up. Already mentioned 'SC. WashU, of course. Vandy went no-loan this year -- apps skyrocketed as well as test scores of the acceptees. Emory with its Scholars program is definitely chasing higher scores; while a not-so-high gpa will exclude one from merit money, high scores just might get you in.

    Those are examples just off the top....
  • blossomblossom Registered User Posts: 9,263 Senior Member
    Sacchi, you're asking a couple of different questions. "quite well-regarded academic programs" can be found in about 500-600 colleges and U's. Of those, your son's stats are problematic at about 30 of them. Leaving lots and lots to choose from.

    The next question is "appropriately fitting school" which is most likely a different animal.

    My own kids had toxic reactions to any "safety type" school where the known slackers and party animals from their HS and our town were going. Our solution was to pick "out of area" safety schools. Then you can focus on a couple of the strong departments, outstanding professors, grad students doing interesting dissertations, etc. without having to go too deeply into the rest of the student body. It's important to find a place where your son is going to have "his people" and other stimulating experiences. But don't let his perception of "where the dumb kids go" prevent you from exploring some great choices.

    This is particularly true for State U's in other places. The tippy top of their students make for a great and challenging group of peers and your son won't have to trip over the kids he knew (and didn't respect) in HS.

    I grew up in Boston when Northeastern and Suffolk had virtually open enrollment. I get such a chuckle now when I watch kids from my town CHOOSE Northeastern and Suffolk. Usually for some very good reasons. They usually end up really happy and challenged.
  • sacchisacchi Registered User Posts: 2,133 Senior Member
    blossom, I'm not too concerned with finding more safety schools. TCNJ would be acceptable and would be way cheaper in-state than any other safety I can think of. It has rolling admissions and the plan is to apply early, so we'll know early on whether or not any other safeties are needed. And merit money at TCNJ is highly likely. (Until recently they had published a table with SAT scores and class rank indicating merit aid eligibility.) If he doesn't get into a clearly better school than TCNJ, I figure it is better to save our money for law school (or other graduate school if he changes his mind, or for his little sister if no graduate school at all).

    What I'm really looking for is high-match/low-reach schools. If he could get into one of those that accomplish the fit/academic quality goals, it would be worth spending the $$$. I appreciate the school suggestions so far, and would appreciate getting more.
  • FauxNomFauxNom Registered User Posts: 1,220 Senior Member
    I want to echo the advice to look at USC. My 2350 SAT-scoring son has had a blissful freshman year there, and finds the other kids plenty smart and lots of fun. He's in the honors program, which I think is fabulous. He got to take advantage of the National Merit discount, but you never know - your son's scores might land him an interview for one of the big scholarships.

    The only other bit of advice I can offer is to not over-think this. I was convinced by reading Michele Hernandez's book last year that Dartmouth loved high SAT scores more than any other elite school did. S took my advice and applied ED there, and was rejected. We'll never know why, but I was obviously so wrong! There's just no tellin'.
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 31,469 Senior Member
    ^Dartmouth may love high SAT scores, but not enough to reach into the second decile for the B+ students. (At least not at our school.)
  • MomwaitingfornewMomwaitingfornew Registered User Posts: 5,821 Senior Member
    In recent years, Dartmouth admits more on test scores, GPA, and rank than the other Ivies, but that only means that you have to be tops in all three.
  • siserunesiserune Registered User Posts: 1,625 Senior Member
    Dartmouth may love high SAT scores, but not enough to reach into the second decile for the B+ students.

    Dartmouth shows no visible preference for top GPA decile over top SAT decile, according to its online data.

    10 percent of ranked Dartmouth students are below the 90th percentile in high school.

    If Dartmouth preferred grades to test scores, it should have (substantially) more than 10 percent of its students with SAT below 1930, which is the 90th percentile.

    However, the highest SAT possible for a student who on each section of the exam scores below Dartmouth's 25th percentile, is 650 CR + 660 M + 660 W = 1970. This indicates that 1930 is a quite a low total in Dartmouth's population, and it's hard to see how the fraction of students below that score could get much past 10 percent, if it reaches that high at all.
  • jazrie481jazrie481 - Posts: 818 Member
    lockn wrote:
    Look at Carnegie Mellon if he is ok with a tech school. They don't seem to care about grades if the SATs are there. On the scattergram I saw, above 2100 or so they let in around half of applicants regardless of GPA. CMU would be my goal if money wasn't an issue.

    I'm in a similar situation - 2350 SAT, but ranked in the second decile. Hoping to get into USC, if NMF comes through.

    Not being in the top 10% is a real problem, because that is part of the USNews formula. If he were 9% he'd be a shoe-in at any school looking to increase its SAT average.

    Is this really true?! Although I've noticed that CMU's average gpa is around 3.5-3.6 but they seem to favor higher SAT scores.
  • locknlockn Registered User Posts: 3,033 Senior Member
    ^ just based on the scattergram I saw. Maybe it differs by high school - but my school isn't especially competitive or anything.
  • bluebayoubluebayou Registered User Posts: 25,810 Senior Member
    Don't forget that Michelle's book is now 10 years old AND, here experience in Hanover is even further back than that. Moreover, there is little statistical difference between the make-up of Dartmouth and Brown. IMO, the Ivies are just so competitive, they can't help but accept high gpa plus high test scores. Just too many unhooked kids with those stats and good-great ECs to pass on. (Of course, the hooked kids can come in lower. Successful Ivy recruited athletes from our HS typically had at least one test at 700+. but were not top 10%.)
  • locknlockn Registered User Posts: 3,033 Senior Member
    (Of course, the hooked kids can come in lower. Successful Ivy recruited athletes from our HS typically had at least one test at 700+. but were not top 10%.)
    I think hmom has said that Dartmouth has the greatest % of hooked students - maybe this has something to do with it.
  • MGMT_FanMGMT_Fan - Posts: 149 Junior Member
    Is this really true?! Although I've noticed that CMU's average gpa is around 3.5-3.6 but they seem to favor higher SAT scores.
    Yes it is true. 2200+ and they will be more than happy to have you enroll. They lose a lot of top scorers to Ivies and MIT, Caltech, JHU, Duke, etc.
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