By: Sybil E. Gohari, PhD
Founder, The Admissions Company
Until recently, applying to college was an opaque process, ruled by those who claimed to understand the secrets of guidance counseling, and to be the guardians of the grail that is gaining acceptance into an elite college.
Today, we know better. The advent of big data, combined with powerful analytics can help us glean a better understanding of the process, and each student’s prospects. However, the sheer amount of data available for college applicants is simply astounding; so much so, that it can be overwhelming for any one person to sift through this mountain in their quest to find a college that suits them.
At The Admissions Company, we have an answer. We have developed software that can use basic demographic and academic information from an applicant, and using our unique methodology, compare that to the more than 2,000 colleges and universities in the United States to ascertain – with a reasonable degree of confidence – the odds of that applicant gaining acceptance to a particular college.
We also believe that it is important to place this valuable tool in context. We know that many factors impact admission into a college. The important ones are grades, test scores, curriculum difficulty, extracurriculars, and others. We also know that each school has a range within which they consider applications. This data, when combined and compared, can provide a reasonable picture of the odds of gaining acceptance into a college.
A perfect example would be a competitive college with a high average for grades and test scores and a low acceptance rate. If that college has an average high school GPA of 3.9, we could look at their admissions data and extrapolate the range of GPA that they accept may be between 3.8 and 4.0. Will they accept students below a 3.8? Of course. But these students will have to present exceptional, extenuating circumstances to gain acceptance to such a competitive school.
Our software helps students in a variety of ways. If you’re a student in the early years of high school, and wish to apply to a particular college, you can input various data and develop a better understanding of what kind of grades and test scores you will need to gain acceptance into a college. This way, you can better plan your curriculum in order to increase your chances of admission. If you’re a junior or a senior and most of your GPA is already well determined, then you can use the software to decide where you have a good chance to gain admission and apply to those schools, essentially better allocating your resources.
It is important for students to understand the value of our software in the grand scheme of the college application process. The end result of the process of using our software, presents the student with a number representing the percentage chance of getting into a particular college. This number is dependent on the student’s input.
It must be noted that your odds cannot be the driver of the entire process. If you have a 50% chance of getting into a school that, on average, accepts 20% of its applicants, then you essentially have 2.5X the chance of an average applicant, and you’d do well to consider applying to that school. By the same token, if you have a 5% chance of gaining acceptance to a college that accepts 30% of its applicants, that probably means you need to work harder on your application, essay, interview and make sure your application shines through.
Moreover, no software can pinpoint – with laser precision – the exact odds of a student getting into a college. The more data available, the more precise the prediction will be. Nevertheless, there is some variance in the final output. If you’re applying to a college and your odds are 50%, then a multitude of factors can change that outcome; one would be changing circumstances, another would be the number of people of similar circumstances, from the same school, county or state applying to the same college, and yet another would be if the total number of applications increases or decreases with respect to the past data available. Overall, this variability is such that it would benefit our users to consider their results in a broader context.
The best way to use the odds calculator is to compare your odds of acceptance to the average acceptance rate of the college. If you’re significantly higher, that’s good. If you’re significantly lower, then you have to work harder to gain acceptance.
In the future, we plan to augment our odds calculator with a suite of tools that will help students and their parents better understand and navigate the college application process with a lighter workload, less anxiety, and more certainty.
© The Admissions Company, LLC 2017
Cross posted from The Admissions Company.