By Holly Bennetts
The Ivory Tower of Admissions - this image represents the perception that college admissions is shrouded in secrecy. The reality is that most of the information regarding college admissions is public information. Here are a few favorite resources to understand the college admission process:
NACAC’s State of College Admission
The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) publishes a yearly State of College Admission in the late Fall, early Winter (please note, a 2020 guide was not published). This guide is developed after surveying Deans and VP’s of college admission offices asking what their schools use in the admission process (and lots of other information too). Check out the guide here. To quickly get to the information about what colleges are looking for, click on the “Factors in College Admission” banner.
The Common Data Set
Almost every college in the country reports to the Common Data Set (in fact, there are only 3 that do not because they receive no federal funds). This document is RICH in data. The admission data is usually found around pages 5 or 10. The testing information is the most important part of this document for college admissions. Schools report how many students submit an SAT or ACT and more importantly, what scores are being accepted. When we talk about if a student should submit a score or not, I am looking at the Common Data set.
How do you find it? Search “University of XZY Common Data Set.”
The information reported in Common Data Set sections about testing is from students who enrolled at the institution.
If a student were to ask me, “I got a 27 on the ACT, should I submit it?” I would look at the category for 24-29 and find that 49.41% of students in this test range were admitted. This looks like a good place to send a test score.
GPA is also represented on the Common Data Set. It is broken down by the percentage of enrolled students within each grade point range.
You can often also see how many students applied as test-optional or submitted test scores!
Sometimes when you look for this testing data, it is blank. In most cases these are schools that are test optional, and a strong percentage of applicants do not submit scores. Therefore, any data reported would be skewed toward higher test scores and not representative of the incoming class statistics.
College admission data can be complicated, but understanding the context often provides clarity about best college admission paths.
My colleague Eva is obsessed with reading college newspapers. She searches for the class being admitted (In 2022 = Class of 2026). Then she searches keywords such as “admitted.” Here are a few examples: