Why College Freshman Profiles Matter (Somewhat)


Applying to college is a lot like a job interview. You do your best to impress with hopes of rising above the competition to come out as the frontrunner. When you have the best grades, the best GPA, the best rank, and the best test scores, it usually means you have a good shot when applying to any college. However, most people don’t have the best of the best in all categories or maybe even in any, so they need to figure out how likely their odds of admission truly are.

Thankfully there is a way to help clarify the likelihood of admission. Colleges post each year the current freshman class’s academic profile. The academic profile provides information about GPA, test scores, and other relevant information. Some colleges are incredibly detailed while others provide a snapshot. In either case, you should have a better idea on how you’ll compare to your competition.

Just to give you an idea, here are several freshman class profiles:

(Please note that these numbers change each year and that the samples are only meant to give you an idea of what these profiles look like.)

UC Berkeley:

UT Austin:

Yale:

Columbia:

While checking the academic profiles, you may notice a term -- “the middle 50%” -- listed with the SAT/ACT scores. Vanderbilt has a great writeup on this term. But to keep things simple, the “middle 50%” refers to the 25th to 75th percentiles of scores.

There’s one thing to keep in mind when reviewing college freshman profiles: they don’t tell the whole story. Applicants like to sell themselves short when they read that the “middle 50%” of SAT scores, for example, is 1425-1450 and they got a 1400. The numbers are supposed to give you an idea but not limit you to thinking anything less means you have no chance. Numbers only tell one part of the story, and if you remember what I said last week (or need some refreshing), colleges like to use holistic review.

Think of the freshman academic profiles as estimates. While they don’t guarantee admission or rejection, they do help curb your expectations and even motivate you to polish other parts of your application to improve your chances of getting in. As tired of an idea as it may seem, these profiles are really just one other piece of the puzzle. They aren't crystal balls.

At B2A, we are happy to help students navigate the college admissions process, and many ask questions about how feasible getting into X school will be. If you are uncertain of how to rank your potential schools based on admission outcome, then let us help you. And maybe you are still working on getting a great SAT/ACT score, we can help with that too! Don’t fall down in the face of competition.

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