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GPA, SAT Scores and ACT Scores for the Ivy League

Harvard - GPA and Test Score Data for Admission

Learn what it takes to get into the Ivy League with these GPA, SAT and ACT graphs for admitted, rejected and waitlisted students: Brown | Columbia | Cornell | Dartmouth | Harvard | Penn | Princeton | Yale

College Admissions Spotlight10

Should You Take the SAT or ACT?

Thursday April 24, 2014
Nearly all colleges accept the SAT or the ACT, so prospective college students should remember that they have a choice when it comes to standardized testing. Even if you live in part of the country where one test dominates, you can still take the other exam and use those scores. Neither exam is easier than the other, but they test different information. You are likely to find that you do better on one exam or the other (for me, the ACT was better). Both exams take a similar amount of time, both include an essay (although it's optional in the ACT), and both emphasize critical reading and math skills. The ACT has a science section not found on the SAT, and the structure, pacing, and question types are different for both exams. The ACT attempts to test your achievement (what you have learned) while the SAT tests your aptitude (your ability to learn). To learn more, read this SAT and ACT comparison. (Note that these differences between the two exams will change when the redesigned SAT rolls out in 2016).

If you've taken both exams, what was your experience? Which exam did you prefer? Why? Share your thoughts on this SAT and ACT discussion page.

More ACT and SAT Articles:

Here's Why You Should Do an Optional College Interview

Thursday April 24, 2014

For admission to many colleges, an interview is optional. This does not mean that the school does not value the interview. For many schools, it simply isn't practical to conduct an interview with every applicant. Many admissions offices don't have the staff to interview thousands of students, and on the student side, traveling to a college takes lots of time and money. While some colleges rely on alumni to conduct off-site interviews, this practice is also not feasible for all schools. The result is the widespread practice of optional interviews.

There are, however, several reasons to do an optional interview. At many schools, demonstrated interest is a factor in the admissions decision. An easy way to express interest is to show up in person for an interview. Also, the interview allows the admissions officers to get a much better sense of your passions and personality. A list of extracurricular activities and SAT scores doesn't really reveal who you are. An interview allows the college to attach a real person to the application.

Also, it's important to remember that an interview is a two-way exchange. Nearly all interviewers provide an opportunity for you to ask questions, and you are likely to leave the interview with a much better sense of the school than you had before. To learn more, read the article on reasons to do (and not do) an optional interview.

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No Acceptance Letters? What Now?

Thursday April 24, 2014

Every April I receive email messages from panicked students who have been waitlisted or rejected from every single college to which they applied. Such situations, unfortunately, aren't uncommon. Thousands of applicants are finding themselves with no acceptance letters. If you find yourself in this unenviable situation, what now?

First off, while you might be incredibly disappointed, there is no cause for panic. Your college dreams are not dead. Several options are still available to you:

  • Consider a "gap year" -- a year off from school during which you do something interesting. Some students travel, volunteer, work, teach, or take classes. If you do something productive and interesting, your college application will be stronger next year. Some top schools such as Princeton like to see students take a gap year. Students arrive on campus with more experiences, more maturity, and a clearer sense of direction.
  • Attend community college or a college that still has vacancies for a year or two, and then try to transfer to your top choice school. Transferring to competitive colleges is not easy, but this route does give you another possible pathway to the college of your dreams.
  • If you've been waitlisted, read these tips for getting off a college waitlist. The situation is largely out of your hands, but a little effort to demonstrate your continued interest and update your application can help.
  • If you've been rejected, realize that a few rare situations can justify an appeal. To learn more, check out this article on appealing a college rejection.
  • Be patient. In May, I'll post a link to NACAC's space availability survey -- it will have a long list of colleges and universities that still have spaces available for the fall. While you won't find Harvard on the list, many good schools will still be looking for a few good students
  • Finally, while you should move ahead with other plans, don't give up on those waitlists. With the high number of applications many selective schools received this year, we're going to be seeing a lot of waitlist activity.

ACT Scores from the April 12th Exam Now Available!

Monday April 21, 2014

For those of you who took the ACT on April 12th, scores should now be available on the ACT website. If you took the ACT Plus Writing, you can expect the score on the writing section to appear about two weeks later. (Each essay gets evaluated by two trained readers, so essay scoring is a much more time-intensive process than the multiple choice section.)

If you find that you are unhappy with your scores, don't panic. There are now about 850 test-optional colleges, and even at schools that require the SAT or ACT, the exam is just one part of the application. Most selective colleges have holistic admissions, so the admissions folks will also be looking for a winning essay, meaningful extracurricular activities, demonstration of your interest, and good letters of recommendation. Most important of all is a strong academic record.

If you're wondering what your ACT numbers mean, read this overview of ACT scores. To see how your scores measure up to the middle 50% of matriculated students at different colleges, check out these comparison charts:

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