Tuesday, January 29, 2013

It's Admissions Time

It's the time of year when high school seniors are either hearing from or waiting to hear from universities about whether or not they were admitted.  For fun, because this is what I do for fun, I looked at the SEC schools and how they ordered the reasons they used in deciding admissions.

There are six "academic" categories asked of all schools, as well as 13 "non-academic" categories. Universities can score these as Very Important, Important, Considered, or Not Considered.  This is a lot of data, so I have to simplify things a little, but some fascinating differences emerge.

Let's look at the academic categories first.
  • Rigor of high school work:  Eleven of 14 SEC schools say this is "very important."  Those who don't are South Carolina, Auburn, and Missouri (all score it as "important").
  • Class rank:  A real mish-mash here.  Missouri, Texas A&M, and Vanderbilt all consider this "very important."  No one else does.  UGA, where I teach, says it's "not considered."
  • Academic GPA: All schools consider this "very important."  Keep your grades up out there, kiddies.
  • Standardized Test Scores:  The dreaded SAT/ACT.  Surprise surprise, not everyone agrees these should be "very important."  Ten consider it as such.  The four who consider it "important" are Florida, UGA, Mississippi, and Mississippi State.  That's interesting. You have two of the academically better schools and two without anywhere near the same academic standards for admission.
  • Application essay:  Florida, Auburn, and Vandy consider this "very important."  Most only consider this, or not at all (Texas A&M lists it as "important.").
  • Recommendation: Nearly universal here, either just "considered" or "not considered."  The exception is Vanderbilt, a private university with a smaller student base, which labels it "important."
Those are the "academic" categories.  A few words of methodological warning.  This is only what the schools say they do, but we'll take them at their word.  Also, what qualifies as "rigor" at some schools is not the same as what qualifies as "rigor" (or even an acceptable SAT score) at other schools.  You're really competing in a different pool for admission to Florida than you are for admission to Mississippi State.

Okay, how about those "non-academic" categories?  There are a lot of them, so I'm going to just mention a few that stand out.  Florida is the only school that calls volunteer work" "very important."  Most other SEC schools only consider it, or don't consider it at all.  Indeed, where UGA and Florida differ most is UF deems extracurricular activities, talent/ability, and character as "very important," while UGA calls them as "considered."  Indeed, for UGA the non-academic stuff is either "not considered" or "considered."  Texas A&M perhaps puts more emphasis on these categories than any other school other than Florida.  It's interesting that both are also among the top academic schools in the conference.

One more interesting point.  Under the category of how you consider alumni or family relations/links to the school, most put at best "considered."  But Texas A&M has this little notation: "per instructions of OAR -- Leave Blank."  Not sure what that means, but I smell a story.

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