What Are Your Chances of Getting Into College?

What Are Your Chances of Getting Into College?

You’ve gone through all the work that was required of you, and you’re about to finish four years of high school.

The lists of colleges and criteria you’ve scoured through have helped you narrow it down to the schools you loved the most.

Whether or not those factors and preparations have changed in light of COVID-19 (and it’s likely they have changed, at least in some ways), you’re likely left wondering what your chances are of getting into those schools on your list.

Will you get lots of acceptances, rejections, or a mixture of the two? This depends entirely on a few factors and the schools you’ve applied to. 

 

Criteria Used to Determine College Acceptance

Keep in mind that these have been the typical criteria for years, but with the changes to news coming every day, changes to testing, grading, and college admissions are also slowly seeping in.

Some states will likely cancel or postpone ACT/SAT, which could lead to adjustments in the ways college make their decisions.

Keeping an eye on the website and social media of your goal colleges can help you stay apprised of any changes they make to their acceptance policies. 

GPA

A classic criteria, you’ve been told since day one of high school how ever-important that final GPA number is.

While it’s too late to go back to those first few years and start on a better foot, it’s still in your interest to finish this last semester strong and get that GPA as high as possible. 

Every college has a range of GPAs it considers, and within a specific university, a particular major or program may even differentiate their criteria.

While you know the closer to 4.0 or above, the better, if you’re feeling the pressure with a lower GPA, it’s not necessarily time to panic. For some colleges, GPA is the most important factor taken into consideration.

For others, a combination of other criteria may override a less than impressive GPA. 

The approximate average GPA of students across the country is 3.0. But factoring in the large percentage of students not planning on going to college, a “good” GPA for getting into top schools is likely closer to 3.5 and above.

That being said, there is no one universal “good” or “bad” number. What’s a good GPA for you will depend on your other test scores, coursework, extracurriculars, and so on. It also depends on the school you have in mind.

Some colleges have an average acceptance GPA closer to 2.5. 

Test Scores

This is possibly the factor that’s the most up in the air as a result of the pandemic.

Since ACT and SAT testing is typically done in a school or other large facility with groups of students lined up at desks alongside each other, it’s looking like the traditional tests won’t be taking place as planned, at least not in most places.

Unless a major development moves us in a better direction, the possibility of canceled or virtual ACT and SAT testing is likely. 

However, going off of the normal way of things, test scores have statistically been a major factor in acceptances for many schools, but are almost never the biggest factor.

As far as ACT goes, the test gives a score between 1 and 36. The national average is 21. But what are your chances of getting into college based on your score?

Again, it depends on the school. A major prestigious university will be unlikely to accept a score lower than 31 and 32, and those are below average for them.

A selective public school (Big 10, for instance) will likely expect scores at least in the mid-twenties. On the other hand, a smaller state school will often accept scores in the high teens and low twenties, as they’re less selective. 

The SAT is scored totally differently, with a max score of 1600. In this case, the average score for Ivy League and other elite universities is generally well over 1340. That is no easy feat.

Thankfully, other schools expect a little less. Major state schools will generally look for SAT scores around 1100-1300. Smaller, less selective schools will often be happy to accept scores between 800 and 1100. 

Extracurriculars and Personal Connections

Here’s something else you may be wondering: Do my extracurriculars or personal connections increase my chances of getting accepted at a school? Again, like every factor, the answer is based on the school in question.

With a prestigious top tier school, extracurriculars may account for 10-20% of your acceptance decision. In the case of these schools, the more impressive your background the better.

With most other schools, including large public schools, your extracurricular stats may matter little if at all. It’s possible that if your other scores and grades put you on the edge, some other impressive experience may push you over the edge.

But more often than not, the quantity of activities you did in high school won’t play a major part in your chance of getting into college.  If anything, it’s the quality and commitment to the extracurriculars you participate in that will have more of an impact.

The same is true for personal connections.

It will likely never be the top reason you get into a school, but having a connection to the college in the form of impressive alumni relations won’t hurt. It may give the little boost you need to get a yes.

Essays and Other Application Materials

Does your application essay have a strong effect on your chances of getting accepted? In most cases, probably less than you think.

If a school requires one or more application essays or supplemental materials, it’s likely that they play some role. (There’s a reason many schools don’t require them; they don’t read them!)

So if your school has an essay, it’s safe to assume submitting a good one will do nothing but help your chances. But how much? Likely less than you think.

An amazing essay is never going to outweigh your scores and grades; it’s not going to be the deciding factor of an acceptance. Yet it can help your case a bit.

On the other hand, a terrible essay can mean a quick rejection, so it’s still wise not to slack on them. 

 

What Do Ivy Leagues and Top Schools Require?

Ivy League schools are only the eight best and most prestigious schools in the country, and they have no hard and fast requirements across the group of them, but there are some starting points to consider if you’re shooting for elite schools. 

  • A GPA very close to or over 4.0
  • SAT over 1450 and ACT over 34 (the higher the better)
  • Volunteer work, sports, extracurriculars, awards, activism, etc. 

As far as your chances go, for the best of the best, acceptance rates are at a tiny 4-10%, depending on the school. For the next tier of elite schools beyond Ivy League, acceptance chances go up ever so slightly.

So if you’re trying to find a hard and fast percentage for your likelihood of getting into college, this may show you why that’s hard to come up with. Everything is dependent on your grades, scores, and other accomplishments, as well as the schools you’ve set your sights on. But if you want to calculate a bit more specifically, this calculator can estimate your chance of acceptance based on the information you provide. Your Chances 

 

If you’d like to know which of the schools you’re interested in will potentially give you merit aid, check out our College Insights tool. It will provide you with a list of schools that will be more generous with their money based on your stats and preferences. Click here for more details.

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Annie Burdick

Annie Burdick

Annie Burdick is a writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon, but transplanted from the Midwest. She also works as a community inclusion specialist for adults with disabilities. Previously she's edited and written for magazines, websites, books, and small businesses, on an absurdly wide range of topics. She spends the rest of her time reading, eating good food, and finding new adventures in the Pacific Northwest.
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