Once again, self-described “tableau dabbler,” Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president for enrollment management at DePaul University, has come up with easy-to-use tools for visualizing basic college admissions data.
Drawing from information compiled in Peterson’s Undergraduate database and the Peterson’s Undergraduate Financial Aid database, both copyright 2016 by Peterson’s-Nelnet, Boeckenstedt has created a series of ten “views” or charts showing test scores, male and female admit rates, early decision vs. regular admit rates, need data as well as some general international student information to be used with caution.
And the colorful “optics” can be very revealing as well as educational for anyone putting together a college list.
For example, by looking at “SAT Math distributions,” it’s very easy to see that an applicant to Caltech with less than a 700 Math SAT has nearly no chance of admission as 98.9 percent of the freshman class entering fall 2015* (the teal-color bar) had math scores over 700 (exact numbers can be found by hovering your mouse over the bar). Judging from ACT Composite distributions, the student with less than a 30 Composite ACT score had no chance of admission to Caltech.
Using the same database, Boeckenstedt lays out 25th and 75th percentiles for SAT CR and Math scores as well as ACT Composites. Looking at the ACT view, for Stanford University, the 25th percentile of the distribution was 31 and the 75th percentile was 35—not too promising for a student with an ACT Composite below 31.
“While test scores are not the primary factor in admissions decisions, these charts can give you a good sense of where you might stand in the applicant pool,” explained Boeckenstedt. “And while you might not eliminate yourself from consideration if your scores are close to the border between one range and another, it’s clear that high scores are an important consideration at many of these institutions.”
Admit rate data, or the percentage of applicants offered admission, is equally interesting. The chart illustrating the difference between admit rates for men and women shows exactly how wide the margin can be. For example, in fall 2015, the admit rate for men at Vassar College was 35.4 percent and for women was 21.5 percent—a significant difference easily visualized by the distance between the purple and orange dots. At Harvey Mudd College, the admit rate for men was 9.4 percent while the admit rate for women was 21.4 percent—the dots are reversed!
But it’s the chart documenting the early decision (ED) and overall admit rates and their difference that could possibly suggest application strategies. In fall 2015, the admit rate for ED candidates at Tufts University was 39.2 percent, but the overall admit rate was only 16.1 percent, suggesting a huge advantage for ED applicants. This is confirmed in the light blue bar to the right of the chart showing the difference between the two rates.
Boeckenstedt warns that it’s important to be realistic about admit rates. “A 15% admission rate does not mean that your chances are one in seven; your chances may be better or worse based on any one of many factors in your file.”And, “if you’re a top student in the applicant pool, your chances are probably better; if not, and if there is nothing else to get your application noticed, your chances are almost certainly worse.”
He goes on to add, “…it’s clear that Early Decision makes the choice about where to apply, and under what plans, even harder.”
All of Boeckenstedt’s charts may be filtered by state. And to navigate the various views, simply click the gray boxes or arrows along the top. Use the scroll bar to move down the view, and hover over any data point to show details.
For the record, all the score information is given in terms of the “old” SAT and not the “new” SAT.