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Are these numbers correct?

Bigdaddy88Bigdaddy88 Registered Users Posts: 34 College Search & Selection Champion
edited May 2013 in Parents Forum
So a buddy and I were having lunch and talking about colleges. My D scored in 98th percentile on the ACT. This means that 2% of all kids taking the test scored higher. Pretty good...until you look at the numbers.

I realize that not everyone takes the ACT, but for argument sake, assume that she is in the 98th percentile in the standardized test realm.

So, 3.4 million kids graduate from US high schools nowadays. If 2% of those kids scored higher than her that equals 68,000 kids.

If you use USNWR rankings as a starting point then the top 20 national universities accept roughly 40,000 kids and the top 20 LAC's accept roughly 8,000 kids. That means that after those tippy top schools are off the table, there are still 20,000 kids with better standardized test scores than my D who is in the 98th percentile! To make matters worse, this doesn't include international students!!

After the top 20 national universities, we began to see very large public universities. So from 21-25 you might have another 25,000 acceptances and for the second tier LAC's you can add another 2,000 admissions. So...if you are realistic AND scored higher on the standardized tests than 98% of all kids taking the test, you can begin to look at schools squarely in the dreaded second tier!

Someone PLEASE tell me my methodology is wrong.
Post edited by Bigdaddy88 on
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Replies to: Are these numbers correct?

  • movemetoomovemetoo Registered Users Posts: 5 College Search & Selection Champion
    edited May 2013
    That also doesn't include the SAT test takers.
  • ChedvaChedva Super Moderator Super Moderators Posts: 57
    edited May 2013
    Your methodology is wrong. As you yourself say, not all of those 3.4 million kids take the ACT. A significant number take the SATs. And probably an even more significant number don't take any admissions test at all.

    You have to start with the number of students who took the ACT in a given year, not those who graduated from high school.
  • PizzagirlPizzagirl Registered Users Posts: 153
    edited May 2013
    , 3.4 million kids graduate from US high schools nowadays. If 2% of those kids scored higher than her that equals 68,000 kids.

    Yes, but how many are 4-year-college bound (versus going to the military or working or going to 2-year colleges or vocational training)? Start there, not at 3.4 MM kids.

    And, of course, remember that many, many smart kids who are 4-year-college board have zero interest in looking at top universities / LAC's. They go off to state flagships or local colleges and do just fine.
  • TempeMomTempeMom Registered Users Posts: 15 Harvard Champion
    edited May 2013
    Your numbers may be off but the competition is likely steeper than you think at first blush for a kid at 98th percentile.
  • CT1417CT1417 Registered Users Posts: 18
    edited May 2013
    While this chart is for the SAT, it may help you see how many students score at or above the 98th %. I don't think your analysis is that far off. I do not know if these SAT counts represent unique students or if students are counted each time they sit for the SAT.

    http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/SAT-Percentile-Ranks-Composite-CR-M-W-2011.pdf
  • Bigdaddy88Bigdaddy88 Registered Users Posts: 34 College Search & Selection Champion
    edited May 2013
    Ok, so for argument sake I just assumed my D is in the 98th percentile of ALL kids taking either SAT or ACT. I realize its an assumption.

    Second, I looked further and only 2.1 million kids go to college. So that changes the #'s a little. So, 42,000 US kids have higher standardized test scores. Still means that the top 17-18 national universities and LAC's could theoretically fill all their slots before my D's stats would be considered. I completely understand that a significant number of top achievers attend schools other than the 20 colleges. I also understand that standardized test scores are only a part of the admissions formula. I'm just saying its pretty sobering to think this scenario is at least plausible for a kid in the 98th percentile...
  • itsthatimeitsthatime Registered Users Posts: 1 College Search & Selection Champion
    edited May 2013
    The top schools do not select their students by choosing the top ACT or SAT scorers. Your methodology is completely unrealistic. The top schools have a complicated matrix and scores are only one aspect of their decision process. Large state schools are more likely to use grades and scores only to select admitted students. As long as your daughter's grades, recommendations, EC's and everything else are comparably teh same level as her scores, then she will be in line for admission consideration at some of these schools.
  • prefectprefect Registered Users Posts: 7
    edited May 2013
    Here is the table for ACT scores for class of 2012. Look on about page 14. This will tell you how many kids got each score.
    http://www.act.org/newsroom/data/2012/pdf/profile/National2012.pdf

    About 1.6 million kids took the ACT. Also consider that not every kid with high test scores has high grades or wants to go to a top 20 school (or can afford it). There are many variables to consider.
  • Bigdaddy88Bigdaddy88 Registered Users Posts: 34 College Search & Selection Champion
    edited May 2013
    ^^^lets hope!
  • sosomenzasosomenza Registered Users Posts: 111
    edited May 2013
    You're thinking that it's a sprint, but it's really a hurdle contest. The ACT is only one of a bunch of hurdles that get considered. If she has the grades and the course load, and the recommendations and a talent that really sticks out like writing, singing, acting, sports, then she has a shot at any school. But if she gets tripped up then the other runners will likely pass her by.
  • momofthreeboysmomofthreeboys Registered Users Posts: 57
    edited May 2013
    I agree with others that the top 5% or so are spread out over thousands of colleges, on the same hand today's kids seem to point at the same group of colleges which is where the hurdle comes in. A well crafted, researched and thought out list for college apps helps a great deal and the kids somehow manage to sort themselves out between March and August and the log jam feeling ends.
  • poetgrlpoetgrl Registered Users Posts: 194
    edited May 2013
    I can assure you that there are some kids who even score above your daughter who do not have top GPA's, or who refuse to take APs, or any of that rigamarole. Most of them will do fine in college admissions since they will have "high enough" GPAs, but not every smart kid who tests well is fast out of the gate with the studying. A lot of them, or some of them, anyway, will slack for at least one, maybe two years.

    IME
  • CT1417CT1417 Registered Users Posts: 18
    edited May 2013
    Still need to learn how to quote.....

    "...but not every smart kid who tests well is fast out of the gate with the studying. A lot of them, or some of them, anyway, will slack for at least one, maybe two years."

    Agree with poetgrl as I have one who tested at 98th % but ramped up GPA each year from an undistinguished start. Took a while to figure out HS, so his GPA is not commensurate with his SAT score, and he will not be applying to the same schools as those who have both test scores and grades at the 98th %.
  • kiddiekiddie Registered Users Posts: 21
    edited May 2013
    Just proves how difficult it is for a top student even to get into a top 20 school!
  • BobWallaceBobWallace Registered Users Posts: 66
    edited May 2013
    There are about 4000 colleges in the country, so if you limit to the top 20, that's top 0.5% and top 40 would be top 1%. Naturally there's not room for the top 2% of students.

    However, college rankings are are not objective percentiles like ACT scores. They are mostly baloney.
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