How to Use College Admission Statistics to Guide Your Search
It’s best to look at any data within its greater context, especially if you’re going to use it to influence an important decision like where you’ll submit college applications.
For example, when looking at the school’s acceptance rate, you’ll also want to look at the total number of applicants. If a school has a 10% acceptance rate, but received 50,000 applications, that’s still 5,000 students who are admitted. But, if a college has a 50% acceptance rate and only receives 10,000 applications, that’s still 5,000 students admitted.
The acceptance rate, average test scores, and class profiles don’t tell you the full picture of a school.
Pierce recommends that students avoid focusing on college admission statistics at the beginning of the process. “It’s important for students to know going into the process how selective a school is, but we don’t want to scare students away. We want students to understand the opportunity they have.”
You may use admittance rates to build your college list, adding a mix of schools that have a more selective admit rate, as well as some with a higher admittance rate. The number can help set expectations and understand what may be more of a reach school.
For sophomores and other young students exploring options, Pierce says the statistics can help provide a game plan for a school you really want to attend. “It can help you plan out your future (high school) coursework and ensure you’re academically prepared.”
When looking at rankings, consider the methodology behind each ranking. Which factors matter to you? If minimal debt is an important factor, look at rankings that take this into consideration and weigh it at a level that reflects its importance to you.
HowStuffWorks emphasizes knowing where various rankings get their data. For example, U.S. News & World Report gets its data directly from schools, whereas PayScale, for its ROI ranking, obtains data from approximately 1.6 million college-educated workers who complete PayScale’s own survey.