3 years ago
Admissions Advice

Hopefullly a meaningful discussion of Class Rank, GPA and Test Scores in relationship to top schools

Hi, I'm writing this for those that want a better insight into the college admissions process. There are roughly 25,000 high schools and 3000 of these are private high schools. From these 28,000 schools and a plethora of Int'l high schools over 3 Million US and perhaps 300K are another group, Int'l students vying for a spot at top schools. There are only about 14,000 or 0.4% who will end up matriculating into the Ivy League. So even if you feel you should be given a seat at one, it's very important to have a comprehensive application strategy with other types of schools you would be very happy to attend if that may not work out for you.

Many of you are aware of the Common App and that there are places to put in your Class Rank if your school ranks and your GPA, however, your school calculates that usually on a 4.0 scale converted from a 100 point scale in some cases.

But unlike entering a 30 ACT score of 1350 SAT score, class rank and GPA do not mean the same thing from school to school. Whereas, regardless of where you attend high school, if you put down you got a 30 ACT or 1350 SAT, that means the same thing. Regardless of what City, State, Country you live in your standardized test scores mean the same things. What doesn't mean the same thing is that certain colleges, under the guise of a holistic review process, use Affirmative Action to bump up a Black or Latina person's standardized test score and deflate an Asian person's test score because of their private enrollment practices to make the admissions process a just, equitable, inclusive and diverse process. While this may not seem true, admissions data shows that on average different groups based on race, get admitted into tops schools with different stats and other attributes. The recent Harvard lawsuit won by Harvard indicates that Harvard can use race as a criteria for admitting its cohorts.

With regards to class rank and GPA, they are can never be "apples to apples" because each of the 28000+ schools has its own rules, policies, and student body composition of innate talent and abilities. So if you attend a low-ranking public school in East Los Angeles, Detroit or Alabama, you might be ranked in the Top 5% or numerically ranked 5/500 but an elite college may be comparing you to a student who is Top 25%. One of the cardinal sins of higher education is using a school-wide GPA or another standardized testing to determine public funding for secondary schools. What this means is that at the expense of learning germane useful things to improve your odds of getting accepted into a top college, public school officials focus on making sure that their class of cohorts tests better than other schools in the district so they get a steady stream of money coming into the school. Often the losers of this priority are the very same students they are responsible to educate because there is systemic-wide grade inflation and a ranking system that is purely conciliatory.

It's not different to the likes of joining a little league baseball team and there are 10 teams and everyone gets a trophy and the end of the year just for showing up. The same problem with high schools creates this artificial sense that you are all excellent students because you have a 4.5 weighted GPA or 5.3 weighted GPA or 3.90 Unweighted GPA. There is so much grade inflation in the US right now that no one can understand why they are not getting into top schools. So class rank can be deceiving as well because you might think you are doing a stellar job being Top 10% of your high school but in reality, you might be bottom 90% if you attended a very competitive charter school like Bronx Science. While Harvard doesn't explain why it doesn't consider Class Rank, this could be the reason.

I have a friend at a boarding school who shared with me their school report. Only 1% of 250 student seniors have a UWGPA of 3.8-4.0. 5% have a 3.7-3.8, and 26% have a 3.6-3.7 and 28% have a 3.3-3.6, and 18% 3.2-3.3. and 22% are below a 3.2. Yet in the past 5 years, 330 applications have been accepted into Ivy leagues colleges and 240 have matriculated or 24%, which is nearly 5 X times the average Ivy acceptance rate. Similarly to having a lower Class Rank and lower GPA, it would be also fair to say that these students get in with lower test scores as well. Perhaps 1/3 of the students that were accepted into Cornell over the past 5 years have submitted an ACT score of 30 or less and an SAT score of 1350 or less. The knee-jerk reaction might be "this is outrageous" the reality is that they are just working the system put in place by our founding fathers 300 years ago. So while the holistic process admits underprivileged and marginalized applicants, the same process admits wealthy students who have less than perfect grades, GPAs, and ranks.

Some key takeaways that many public applicants are unaware of are the following:

1.) While US Public schools have Grade inflation, may private schools have grade deflation. At public schools the curve is weighted heavily by all the students with As and Bs, crowing the right side of the bell curve. There is little differentiation between someone ranked 5, 10 or 25th at a large public school. At a private school there is more granularity in ranking because like the SAT, there are more numerical scores like 1510,1520,1530 etc.

2.) Class rank is overemphasized at Public HSs because many students are unaware that there is an equal and opposite consideration for rank at most top private schools. With admit rates of 10-20% for Top private schools, one could say they attract the cream of the crop cohorts as 9th/10th graders. If one considers who their competition is, perhaps they do not mind that they are in the top 50th percentile vs. top 5% at Public schools.

3.) While there is an emphasis to have high-tier ECs and leadership activities at Public HSs, many of the Top Private schools focus on athletics, especially Niche college sports like fencing, sailing, water polo, lacrosse, field hockey, and rowing, etc. Why? These applicants have a better chance of being a recruited athlete and get a great scholarship from an Ivy or Elite college because they value such cohorts. So the takeaway is that institutions that have facilities and resources impact your attractiveness to Ivys if they have similar facilities like indoor hockey rinks, indoor rowing tanks, and indoor competition swimming centers.

4. Standardized tests scores don't mean that much when you attend a top private high school as long as you can tick off the main boxes like course rigor, ECs, and essays. With regards to essays, recommendations, private schools also have a huge advantage because each of the dozens of college counselors at these schools has personal relationships with Top Admissions offices. I imagine there is just as many staff dedicated to helping students wordsmith their essays as well.

5. As feeder schools to the Ivys/Elites, many private schools improve your odds of getting in by a factor of up to 5 times.

The reason I'm sharing this is so everyone applying to top colleges has realistic expectations and have a better understanding of some of the challenges in higher education of making the admissions process more transparent and merit-based. I'm sharing this because most college applicants will have to rely on having very excellent attributes in their application file to get accepted at a top school because it's not a meritocracy. And I truly believe that sites like CollegeVine do an excellent job of helping everyone who is not a recipient of a private education arm themselves with the stats and credentials they need to effectively compete. No one likes to hear some difficult truths but if you know why you are working so hard, sometimes it's useful to have a better understanding of the lay of the battlefield, for lack of a better term. Please don't shoot the messenger. Most of you know that my enjoyment of participating in CollegeVine comes from helping others and giving advice and information to help them make informed choices, nothing else. So good luck over the next cycle and the cycles thereafter.

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3 years ago

I love the insight you proposed but beyond class rank + your whole point 1 arguemnet I feel as if you ignore everything else that’s different between downtown LA HS and elite boarding school such as rec letters ECs etc so ivy’s have a higher admit rate. Of course boarding school has other factors that make them more appealing to ivies independent of facilities etc and I know you know this Cameron but for everyone else I would like to mention that.


3 years ago

I agree with almost everything you stated except

"What doesn't mean the same thing is that certain colleges, use Affirmative Action to bump up a Black or Latina person's standardized test score and deflate an Asian person's test score because of their private enrollment practices to make the admissions process a just, equitable, inclusive and diverse process."

This statement is harmful to many highly intellectual Black and Hispanic students for a number of reasons.

1. Many POC (People of Color) who are admitted into top universities are admitted with ALL aspects of their application considered including their Essays, Extracurriculars, Leadership, and Grades. So even if your statement was true a "standardized test bump" would mean nothing.

2. POC students are limited in the resources they have, they most likely cannot afford private tutors or testing help from big companies. And the majority of the time they have little time to study for these exams in extensive hours that their white counterparts might have because they are either working a part-time job to sustain their family or related tasks.

3. Colleges and top universities admit ALL students based on the Competition in their Demographics and major. So White applicants would be competing with other white applicants, Hispanic applicants would be competing with Hispanic applicants, biology majors will be competing with biology majors. This process makes sense, as there will be less qualified POC applicants so the qualified might have "higher" chances at competitive schools, whereas White/Asian applicants will have much more competition because more white/Asians are more qualified.

Affirmative Action is NOT real, every time it is mentioned it brings more subjective hate towards POCs in top institutions because it implies they did NOT work hard, and they do NOT deserve their position.

I have seen videos of POC students going to colleges like Brown and Columbia and having to tell themselves numerous times they deserve to be where they are because people make them feel otherwise. This is NOT FAIR towards these students.

3 years ago

It is true though and I say this as a POC. There was literally a lawsuit filed against Harvard in 2014 by an Asian student because they believed Harvard’s admission policy was discriminatory towards Asian people. While we can argue how helpful AA is, it is used by most top institutions to increase diversity.

3 years ago

discrimination towards Asians in the college administration process is definitely true, but although POC are definitely favored, @CameronBameron stated that POC are getting bumps to their standardized tests, I doubt this is true.

🎤3 years ago[edited]

Please read my long response. My purpose was to point out that there are inequities in higher education admissions and that perhaps some groups undeservingly get admitted into the very same institutions that are trying to deploy DEI policies that create opportunities for BIPOC first-gen low-income applicants. We can agree to disagree about some things but I think you answered your own question within your response.

🎤3 years ago[edited]

As a POC myself, I completely understand your 3 points and agree with them however how I connect the dots is different than you. I feel that within the "holistic" review process at Elite colleges and Ivys, admissions officers make all sorts of accommodations and adjustments to an applicant's file based on their personal experiences, opportunities or lack thereof, whether they come from a poor zip code, or marginalized demographic, or have limited resources. I'm arguing that affirmative action takes place within the holistic review process, it's not a separate process as you suggest. You are saying it is not real because the holistic review process removes the need for it altogether. It's true that from the lens of BIPOC non-Asian they view AA as something racist or misogynistic (if you are BIPOC female) but for White women who are the greatest beneficiaries of AA, they don't have these same feelings of not deserving to be at these schools.

If Ivys and Elites did not use a holistic process, then as the Harvard lawsuit plaintiffs would argue then all the Ivys would be majority Asians followed by Caucasians because they have the highest test scores and grades, and ECs and honors and awards compared to any other demographic.

My overall point is that the "holistic" process is not always an equitable, just, or fair process because as I've laid out in detail, wealthy, entitled private school applicants often get into the same Ivys and Elites with lower stats than the most marginalized, low-income BIPOC non-Asians. So the "holistic process" is indeed a double-edged sword because while they grant access to the best schools if you are an intellectual Black or Latina person from a marginalized/low-income background, on the opposite side of the balance sheet are the same or equal amount of private schools admits that may not have any of the same intellectual ability but are admitted for the purposes of keeping the machine running in the future with donations, endowments, and clout.

Until someone figures out a better system, this is the system we are working with for all its flaws and pitfalls, and problems.

You referred to these youtube videos. If you watch enough of them over the past 5 years you will see a definite pattern to the stats of the admits. Asians who post stats videos have shared their 1520s/1580s or 35/36s on test scores, then White admits who are close behind a 1460/1550 or 33/35s, and then Black/Latina persons who get admitted with 1350/1480s 30/32s to the same schools. I don't think this is random. I think it's important to pay attention and understand the how the game works. You are certainly entitled to disagree that there are different tranches of Test Score thresholds depending on your race, but the facts point that certain groups get bumps and other groups get discounted and it varies from institution to institution.

@Tolu what changes would be made then make the admissions process more just and equitable?

3 years ago

@CameronBameron I agree with a lot of what you are saying, we can definitely agree to disagree. Effectively the admissions process is most definitely flawed in many aspects as you pointed out and realistically it may never be perfectly just or equitable. I would suggest colleges seek

diversity without selfish intentions ... but I think we can both agree this may never occur.

3 years ago[edited]

In my opinion, colleges would be better off and more "equal" if they considered family income instead of race. Most underrepresented minorities have, on average, a lower family income than Whites and Asians. That is not to say that there aren't better off Blacks, Hispanics, or other POCs or that there aren't less better off Whites and Asians.

That is why, in my opinion, considering family income for diversity purposes would be a better system: if a less better off Asian applied to Harvard, there is a good chance they won't get in because of being Asian. Of course, holistic admissions reduce this but there are still fewer chances for an Asian to get in than other POCs and the same can be true for a better-off Black/Hispanic person who has had opportunities their whole life, but still gets into a top tier school because of their race when maybe that spot could have served somebody else better.

I am not saying that certain people are better off in top institutions than others, no, no, no. I am just saying, race-based quotas and limitations in higher education could be solved better by examining family income instead of race.


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