Study Rates College Acceptance Factors

Compiled By Staff
January 25, 2010

admissions officeA new report has concluded that taking more difficult and higher-level courses, particularly in math and science, can increase an applicant's chance of being accepted to a competitive college more than a higher grade-point average.

The study, entitled "Chasing the College Acceptance Letter," was conducted by the Center for Public Education, which provides research, data and analysis on education issues. The report found that applicants who completed trigonometry instead of stopping math at Algebra II increased their chances of being accepted to a competitive college from 52 to 57 percent. Similarly, students completing pre-calculus instead of stopping at trigonometry further increased their chances of acceptance from 75 to 79 percent.

But the report also concludes that students today face no more difficult a time getting into college than they did a decade ago. "Beneath the headlines and the urban legends lies the real story," notes the report's executive summary. "If students are well prepared in high school by earning the right credentials, they will get into a good college."

The report's conclusions might seem surprising, given the many recent reports about surging numbers of college applications and fierce competition to get into selective institutions. But the study argues that the increase in college applications does not necessarily mean that there are fewer spots for qualified students. "Some researchers note that the number of open slots at colleges has increased at nearly the same rate as the increase in the number of high school graduates," The Washington Post explains. "Moreover, many applicants send applications to schools for which they are not qualified."

The report also concludes that well-prepared minority students have just as good a chance of getting into a competitive college as well-prepared wide students. However, a much lower percentage of minority students earn the necessary credentials.

In a related story, The Dispatch in Ocean City, Maryland, reports that Worcester County high schools are considering replacing the valedictorian and salutatorian system with rewarding more honors to top students in each school. Officials decided to change the system after determining that class rank is not a determining factor in college admissions.

"Anywhere from 10 to 12 percent of the class would be recognized and this is without students knowing the target," noted Dr. Dick Walker, assistant superintendant for instruction.

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