Vinay Bhaskara 5 min read Applying to College

How Accurate is Naviance Compared to CollegeVine?

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Naviance is a software tool offered through high schools that helps students navigate the college selection and admissions process. The software includes a ton of tools for guidance counselors to use in preparing college applications for their students, and includes a variety of college search and admissions prep tools for students.

 

This blog post will provide a breakdown of the strengths of Naviance as well as the areas where we recommend leveraging additional resources (including some offered by CollegeVine).

 

Estimating Your Chances of Admission

 

One feature that is unique to Naviance is the data it provides on the GPA and SAT scores of students from your high school who applied to a particular college, as well as the outcome of their application (acceptance, rejection, or waitlist). This data is typically reproduced in the format of a scattergram.

 

Our point of view on using Naviance to estimate your chances of admission is that you can kind of get a general sense of where you stand academically, but it is nowhere near sufficient if you want to actually estimate your chances of admission. Here’s our rationale:

 

 

Naviance doesn’t take into account extracurricular activities

 

The college admissions process is holistic, so test scores and coursework/GPA are just two of the numerous factors considered in the admissions process. At most colleges they represent just 25-30% of how the admissions decision is made according to CollegeVine’s data. This is because at selective colleges (with <40% acceptance rates), there are multiple qualified students for every available slot in the class, so they cannot just differentiate students based on these two factors.

 

Extracurricular activities and awards, meanwhile represent close to 35% of the admissions decision by themselves, and they are a huge factor in the admissions process. Naviance does not give you any idea of how your extracurricular profile matches up for the colleges that you are applying to, and that instantly makes their results inaccurate.

Want to know your real chances of admission?

Estimating your chance of getting into a college is not easy in today’s competitive environment. Thankfully, with our state-of-the-art software and data, we can analyze your academic and extracurricular profile and estimate your chances.

Naviance doesn’t take into account your course profile, class rank, or SAT IIs

 

While academics represent 25-30% of the admissions decision, Naviance doesn’t even accurately reflect your full academic profile. In particular, it does not look at your course profile or class rank, and it does not look at your SAT Subject (SAT II) exam scores.

 

Universities do not look at GPAs in a vacuum. A 3.8 or 96 GPA in mostly College Prep (CP) courses will be viewed less favorably than a 3.5 or 89 GPA in a mix of AP and Honors courses. This context is largely missing in the data Naviance presents (though if your school has a weighted GPA that may partly reflect this).

 

Similarly, a 3.8 GPA in a high school with an average GPA of 3.5 and 20% of students above a 3.9 is going to be much less impressive than a 3.8 GPA in a high school with an average GPA of 3.2 and 7% of students above a 3.8 GPA. Whenever it’s available, colleges always take into account your class rank, and even if it’s not directly available, they will try to proxy it by asking about things like the Top 10% cutoff. Naviance’s data does not take into account class rank at all.

 

The final missing academic factor is the SAT II subject exams. Our data shows that taking up to 3 SAT Subject exams (and scoring well) drives close to 10% of a student’s chances of admission, and once again Naviance does not take this factor into account.

 

 

Naviance does not take into account a student’s background or “hook” factors like legacy status

 

This element is huge – students from different demographic backgrounds are judged on separate tracks by a university. For example, an Asian-American student from an affluent suburban school district in California is going to have very different academic and extracurricular standards for admission than a student from Compton or East Los Angeles. Naviance does not take student background into account, so there’s no way of adjusting for this factor.

 

Similarly, Naviance also does not tell you anything about whether the student who was accepted had some sort of “hook” to their application such as legacy status or status as a recruited athlete. According to the recent Harvard lawsuit, recruited athletes have an acceptance rate more than 5 times (518.7% higher to be exact) that of general merit candidates. Similarly, legacy students have close to 6 times the acceptance rate of non-legacy applicants once the so-called “Z-List” is taken into account. Naviance tells you nothing about whether the accepted student with a certain GPA and ACT score was a legacy or recruited athlete, and that completely skews the results.

 

 

CollegeVine’s algorithm takes all of these factors into account and many more

 

In contrast, the chancing engine that students in our college applications program have access to takes all of these factors into account and several more. In fact, the algorithm behind our tool uses more than 30 different variables to give you the most complete picture of your chances of admission at any given college and is based on data sourced from the thousands of students that we’ve worked with over the past 5+ years. Naviance uses just 2 variables and only takes into account 50-100 data points from a single high school.

 

How Helpful are Naviance’s Tools?

 

Some of the tools in Naviance are used by guidance counselors to do things like send your transcripts to colleges and upload guidance counselor and recommendation letters. These tools are absolutely invaluable in the college admissions process.

 

Some of Naviance’s other tools however, are more of a good starting point for research. Two in particular that we can highlight are the finances tab on the college lookup and the application milestones tracking.

 

 

Naviance’s financial statistics are general averages with limited applicability for individual situations

 

Following a typical Naviance financial screen in the college lookup tool, we can see that the figures are missing a ton of context. For starters, there is data that conflates both merit and financial aid which are awarded by colleges for very different reasons. For example, a college might have a relatively low net price for students in the $75-$110k range because they offer lots of scholarships to students with good SAT or ACT scores that just happen to fall in that income range. However, there is nothing that tells you about how much aid you can expect to receive if you don’t have scholarship worthy test scores.

 

Another issue is that this data only looks at income, while financial aid is calculated based on income, assets, and several other factors such as the parent’s age, other children, and special financial circumstances. Two families making $80,000 per year in household income can have completely different financial aid offers depending on these other factors, so these numbers are often entirely off base for a specific family’s situation.

 

CollegeVine’s finances tool, in contrast, provides a customized estimate of your specific projected cost of attendance at a particular college. It also offers a ton of tools to assess post-graduate outcomes such as projected debt loads, major-specific starting salaries, and ROI.

 

 

Naviance’s milestone tracker only includes items that the high school sends

 

These are the milestones that the high school (either teachers or guidance counselors) are required to complete, but at each of these schools there are tons of additional requirements such as financial aid forms, interviews, essays/supplements, and more.

 

In contrast, CollegeVine’s milestone tracker provides a comprehensive view of all of the to-dos and requirements for each and every college. For example, at the University of Chicago our system has 18 distinct application to-dos vs. Naviance’s 5.  

 

In summary, Naviance is a tool that is very useful for guidance counselors and other school officials. It is also a good starting point for families to begin with in the applications process. But to successfully navigate the admissions process, Naviance’s tools just aren’t deep enough on their own. Learn more about how we help students using our extensive data and tools.

Vinay Bhaskara
Co-Founder and Head of CV Labs at CollegeVine
Short bio
Vinay was an economics major at the University of Chicago before going on indefinite leave to pursue CollegeVine full-time as a founder. At CollegeVine, Vinay is the head of the CV Labs team, which works full time on finding data-driven insights into the college admissions process for the students that we work with. In his spare time, he enjoys closely following sports and taking pictures of airplanes.