Why it’s Important to Use University Acceptance Rates and GPA/Test Scores When Building a College List: A Guide for International Students

Now you may be asking yourself, how can I tell if a school is a safety, a fit or a reach? 

Most students and counselor’s go-to is to look at the school’s stats of their freshmen year profile, mainly their acceptance rate, average SAT/ACT scores, average grade point average (GPA), and any other specifics they can find in the school’s Common Data Set. 

Which leads us to the topic of this guide: acceptance rates and average test scores/GPA. 

In this guide we’ll review:

  1. The importance of knowing a school’s acceptance rate, SAT/ACT range and average GPA.

  2. The best places to find this information

  3. How to assess if a school outside the U.S. is a fit, reach or safety 

  4. Why this information can be misleading and what you can do

Why are acceptance rates, SAT/ACT ranges, and GPA averages important? 

As we mentioned earlier, a balanced and intentional college list is incredibly important. 

To create this list, you need to figure out if schools are safeties, fits or reaches.. And to get an idea of whether a U.S. school is a safety, fit, or reach you’re going to need to look at their acceptance rate, and compare your GPA and test scores (if you have them) to each school’s average GPA and test scores. 

One go-to for students is to make sure that they’re within the middle 50th percentile. In other words, you want to check that at least 25% of the students accepted to the school had lower scores or lower grades than you do. 

Of course, matching your stats with the school’s stats is no guarantee. Just because you’re in the middle 50th percentile of test scores for your favorite school, or even above the 75th percentile, that does not mean you’re going to get in. Schools look at everything: your extracurriculars, service work, essays, letters of recommendation, if you chose the most rigorous classes available to you, what your counselor says about you… the list goes on.

Test scores and grades can get you in the front door and can give you a basic idea of whether a school is a reach, fit or safety. They do not guarantee you will get into a certain school, even if you surpass their acceptance profile. “Safeties” aren’t always a safe bet, which is why many counselors choose to call them “likelies” instead. We recommend having at least two or three of these on your list, just in case. 

Acceptance rates can also give you a basic idea of what your chances are at getting into certain U.S. colleges and universities. No matter what your profile is, you’re going to want to include schools with a whole variety of acceptance rates- high and low. As Mark Moody explains with his Quick and Dirty List Builder, acceptance rates can even be a starting point for creating your college list.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *