What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How Important are Academics and Test Scores to Colleges?

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Monique Hunter in a CollegeVine Livestream. You can watch the full Livestream for more info.


What’s Covered:



The application process varies by school, but variables like size and selectivity are good indicators of what the admissions process may be like. 


Consider the Type of School


Large Schools


Large schools, like the University of Maryland, usually receive tens of thousands of applicants each year, so the admissions committee spends less time reviewing each application.


This means that sometimes bigger colleges will employ algorithms. Similar to social media, the algorithm determines who sees your application and who doesn’t. For the admissions process, the algorithm screens an applicant’s academic profile. As a result, if you’re not meeting the required academic threshold, your application may not even be considered. 


Therefore, at larger schools, admission offices will only review the extracurricular profiles and essays of students who make it through this initial academic screening. The algorithms usually assign up to 80% of applicants to groups that they are either  “likely to accept” or “likely to reject.” This leaves only 20% of the remaining students whose applications actually receive a full, holistic application review. 


Selective Schools


The process for selective schools differs because they do not accept applicants based on academics alone. Your application may still have to pass through an initial screening of grades and test scores, but meeting the bar is not enough to be accepted. This is applicable for schools who have a 25% acceptance rate or lower. All applicants who meet a basic academic standard are likely to receive holistic application review.


How Do Admissions Officers Look at My Academics?


Your academics are important for all types of schools. However, at less selective schools your acceptance more likely hinges on a relatively straightforward matrix, where GPA and test scores are the most important factors. Additionally at more selective schools, these measures are almost critical in the sense that they determine whether the other parts of your application are even considered. In both cases, you need to hit a certain threshold, but keep in mind that it will not guarantee you an acceptance. 


To ensure you have a competitive academic profile, you’ll need to demonstrate you took the most rigorous courses offered at your high school. If you went to a prep school or a private school that offered the IB program or AP courses, you want to take advances courses. Admissions officers are looking to see that you challenged yourself and you still performed well.


Nevertheless, it’s all about finding the right balance of courses. You’ll want to take AP classes that are interesting and that play to your strengths. If you take an AP class and you don’t score well on the AP test, this can hurt your chances of acceptance. Ideally, you want to earn a 4 or a 5 on all the AP exams you take. 


How Does Your Demographic or Background Factor in?


Your demographic background includes factors like your ethnicity, family status, gender, sexual orientation, and specific high school. This category also includes whether you have legacy status, meaning that your parents or grandparents went to the university or college you are applying to.


Colleges are looking to build diverse classes, which is why these factors are considered. Demographics are especially important at selective schools where they are trying to promote diversity. Although it varies based upon the school, your demographic background will most likely be considered during a holistic application review.