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Ranking College Student Bodies by ACT scores

baywoodbaywood Registered User Posts: 67 Junior Member
edited September 2011 in Parents Forum
In considering whether it's worth it to go broke sending our child to the "best" school she could get into, or a "lesser" school which would offer merit aid, we've heard the argument that "better" schools have "better" students, who will challenge and motivate our child.

I did a quick comparison of the ACT scores of the middle 50% of freshmen at several schools. The table is below, ranked by the ACT composite score of the top 25% of the entering class, with ties broken by the bottom 25%. I was surprised that schools with dissimilar reputations have similar students (at least using the obviously limited ACT yardstick), and that there is not that much difference between schools like Cornell and UPitt. Any thoughts?


College ACT: 75% 25%

Princeton 31 35

Washington Univ 32 34
Rice 31 34
Univ. of Penn 30 34
Duke 29 34

Emory 30 33
Northwestern 30 33
Carnegie Mellon 29 33
Cornell 29 33
Georgetown 27 33

U of Rochester 29 32
Tulane 29 32
Oberlin 28 32
Case Western 28 32

Lehigh 27 31
Univ of Michigan 27 31
Wake Forest 27 31
Univ of Richmond 27 31
Univ of North Carolina 26 31

Denison 27 30
Dickinson 27 30
George Washington 27 30
Boston Univ. 26 30
Skidmore 26 30
Lafayette 26 30
SUNY at Binghamton 26 30
Univ. of Wisconsin 26 30
Univ. of Pitt 25 30
Post edited by baywood on

Replies to: Ranking College Student Bodies by ACT scores

  • ucsd_ucla_daducsd_ucla_dad Registered User Posts: 8,573 Senior Member
    Harvard and Stanford don't make the list? What about Harvey Mudd, MIT, and CalTech?

    Did you just pick out a sampling or are these really missing from this list for some reason?
  • collegealum314collegealum314 Registered User Posts: 6,768 Senior Member
    Any thoughts?

    The ACT is only popular in the Midwest. If a school doesn't have a large percentage of midwest applicants, the results may be skewed. For example, the average ACT score for UPitt may be based on out-of-state applicants whereas U. Wisconsin would have ACT scores of in-state applicants. Since out-of-state applicants are often stronger applicants, this may skew U Pitt's score upwards.

    Look at UPitt's and Cornell's SAT median scores; I doubt they are the same.
  • collegealum314collegealum314 Registered User Posts: 6,768 Senior Member
    The table is below, ranked by the ACT composite score of the top 25% of the entering class, with ties broken by the bottom 25%.

    I just saw this, but I still think the disparate participation in the ACT by region may skew the results.
  • eastcoascrazyeastcoascrazy Registered User Posts: 2,421 Senior Member
    This is a very limited yardstick. Based on my own son's results, I don't think your ACT breakdown is indicitive of anything. There are so many other "things" that colleges consider.

    Son's stats: ACT 35. SAT 2240. 780 SAT II Math, around 700 in 2 other SAT II's Unweighted GPA 4.0, weighted 4.6 (I think...) Many high level extracurriculars in music and sports, State and national awards for music, 9 Varsity sports, ranked in the state for track, blah, blah, blah.

    Accepted at: UMD-College Park
    Villanova
    College of William and Mary
    UVA
    Vanderbilt
    Wake Forest
    UNC Chapel Hill OOS (attending)
    Waitlisted at Rice
    Rejected by Stanford
    Brown
    U-Penn
  • jc40jc40 Registered User Posts: 1,622 Senior Member
    I would say the reason there's a discrepancy is because a larger percentage of students opt to take the SAT rather than ACT. If you notice the percent reporting the ACT at each school v. the SAT, you'll see what I mean. (This info is available on princetonreview.com) For the most part, the SAT averages represent a more accurate gauge.

    As far as is it "worth it to go broke"...only you can decide. I'm inclined, however, to say no.
  • momofthreeboysmomofthreeboys Registered User Posts: 16,326 Senior Member
    Actually jc40 last year about the same number of ACTs and SAT tests were administered. Some states require the ACT for all high school students to satisfy NCLB...but in general I "get" what the OP is saying and once you get "north" of 25 which I think is close to 80th percentile of college bound students on an ACT you will find a preponderance of college bound kids with the selective colleges looking for 27 and up.... There is still a regional bias with ACT testing stronger in some regions and SAT testing stronger in other regions. So no, I disagree with your statement that SAT averages represent a more accurate gage, either test works and colleges know that as they now accept one or the other.
  • QuantMechQuantMech Registered User Posts: 7,792 Senior Member
    The University of Pittsburgh is a good school, with an honors program that attracts some strong students. On the other hand, I don't quite see that the data support the statement that there is not much difference between the University of Pittsburgh and Cornell. I suppose that depends on the other schools involved (implicitly) in the comparison, that would have a significant difference from either.

    I was curious about whether there was regional bias in ACT vs. SAT, so I took a look at the most recent Common Data Sets of the two schools. [Clarification: I am aware that there is some regional bias. I really meant that I was curious whether the regional bias affected the comparison of Cornell and Pitt.] Interestingly, there is little difference in participation in ACT/SAT. At Cornell, 90% of the students submitted SAT scores and 37% submitted ACT scores--about what I expected. On the other hand, at Pitt, 90% of the students submitted SAT scores and 39% submitted ACT scores. So here there is little difference--although it is possible that the students who submitted ACT scores to Cornell and Pitt do come from different regions--can't tell that from the data.

    If you look at an ACT/SAT concordance, then the 25-30 range on the ACT at Pitt corresponds to 1130-1160 (CR+M) on the 25 end and 1330-1350 (CR+M) on the 30 end. The 29-33 range at Cornell corresponds to 1290-1320 on the low end and 1440-1480 on the high end.

    Cornell reports a 25%ile-75%ile range on SAT CR of 640-730, vs. Pitt's 570-680.
    On the SAT M, Cornell's range is 670-770, vs. Pitt's 600-690.

    The direct SAT results correspond reasonably well with the ACT ranges.
  • ucsd_ucla_daducsd_ucla_dad Registered User Posts: 8,573 Senior Member
    I did a quick comparison of the ACT scores of the middle 50% of freshmen at several schools.
    I missed that in the OP's post which explains all the missing colleges that would likely be above most of the rest.
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