Alexandria, Va., – January 21, 2010 – The Center for Public Education’s report, “Chasing the College Acceptance Letter,” gives students, parents, and school officials new information about the credentials needed to get into a competitive college in today’s environment.
The thousands of high school seniors sending off college applications this month might be surprised to know that taking harder and higher-level courses, especially in math and science, would do more to increase their chances of being accepted than would a higher GPA. A higher score on college entrance exams (such as the SAT or ACT) also beats out a higher GPA.
Who earns the right credentials? CPE researcher Jim Hull found that minority and low-income students are less likely to earn the credentials that will give them a 50/50 shot of being accepted into a competitive college. For instance, while 66 percent of white students earn these credentials, only 37 percent of minority students and 38 percent of low-income students do.
And low-income students’ situation has worsened. While there was almost no difference between the acceptance chances of low and high-income applicants with the same qualifications in 1992, by 2004 high-income students were over 20 percent more likely than their low-income classmates (80 and 66 percent, respectively) to simply get admitted into a competitive college.
The good news is that “the right credentials” doesn’t have to mean straight A’s, a perfect ACT score, or spending 50 hours a week on extracurricular activities. It just means students should earn decent grades, take college-preparatory courses, and perform well on their college entrance exams. According to the most recent national data available, the average applicant earned a 21 on the ACT, completed trigonometry and chemistry, and earned a 3.12 GPA. This translated into a 75 percent chance of being admitted into a “competitive” college (as defined by Barron’s Profile of American Colleges).
- If an average applicant was able to pass pre-calculus instead of stopping at trigonometry, his or her chances would have increased from 75 to 79 percent.
- Lower-achieving applicants could increase their chances from 52 to 57 percent if they simply completed trigonometry instead of stopping math at algebra II -- a greater increase than if the student earned a 3.0 GPA.
- If minority students earn the same grades, take the same courses, and score the same on their college entrance tests, they have just as good a chance of getting into college as their white classmates. However, minority students are much less likely (15 percent versus 39 percent) to earn the credentials of the average applicant.
- Only 16 percent of low-income students earn the credentials of the average applicant. Even if they do, they are less likely to be accepted than their high-income peers.
The author, policy analyst Jim Hull is available for interviews. Contact Linda Embrey at 703-838-6737 or firstname.lastname@example.org for scheduling.
The Center for Public Education (www.centerforpubliceducation.org
) is a national resource for credible and practical information about public education and its importance to the well-being of our nation. The Center provides up-to-date research, data, and analysis on current education issues and explores ways to improve student achievement and engage public support for public schools. The Center is an initiative of the National School Boards Association (NSBA).
Founded in 1940, the National School Boards Association (www.nsba.org) is a not-for-profit federation of state associations of school boards representing 95,000 local school board members throughout the United States. Its mission is to foster excellence and equity in public elementary and secondary education through local school board leadership. NSBA represents the school board perspective in working with federal government agencies and national organizations that impact education, and provides vital information and services to state associations of school boards throughout the nation.
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"Chasing the Acceptance Letter" link: