SATs and the “real” college admissions numbers at top colleges

By SAT ACT Test Prep
Correlation of top schools and top SAT scores

A few years ago, a parent from Madison, CT – who I will call Mr. Engineer due to his constant focus on the math related to college admissions – met for a college counseling meeting to discuss his son’s chances at different elite colleges.

His son’s grades matched the stated GPA range of a particular school and his SATs caught the low end of the 25%-75% range of the school’s stated SAT range for admitted students.  There was nothing else about his son’s background that was exceptional.  Like many students, he had some community service, he played in the school band, and was a member of National Honor Society.  Mr. Engineer thought that his son had a pretty good chance of admission. I explained that his odds were less than 10% unless he raised his SAT scores to be in the higher end of the aforementioned 25 to 75% SAT range.

Here’s why: some portion of those admitted to all schools are simply differently situated than the typical good, even great, student from suburban Connecticut.  Athletes, VIPs, and diversity candidates are not part of the pool of regular applicants.  Recruited athletes already know that they will be admitted by the school of interest.  Those that are not recruited for particular schools often only “apply” to the school where they have already been guaranteed admission. Subsequently, the admissions rate for recruited athletes from specific schools is nearly 100%. The rates for VIP and diversity candidates are not as high but still far higher than the normal high school student from Connecticut.  And, among those that are admitted, the SAT scores are lower – sometimes a lot lower. So, if a school indicates that a 1300 SAT is the median SAT score.  It may be that “normal applicants” have a median of 1330 or higher because the “special applicants” have SATs that might hover around 1200.

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