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)

What is the Academic Index? How is it Calculated?

What’s Covered:


If you want to get into one of the most selective schools in the country, then you should familiarize yourself with something called the Academic Index. Selective colleges use a variety of tools to help them make the right decision on each application, and the Academic Index is one of them. Read on to find out how your Academic Index can affect your admissions chances!


What Is the Academic Index?


The Academic Index is a tool that admissions officers at Ivy League and other selective colleges use to expedite their decision-making process. Using the information from a student’s transcript and test scores, the Academic Index is a calculation that combines a student’s overall academic performance into a single numerical score.


Admissions officers use this score to make a quick assessment as to whether a student has the required academic qualifications to be considered for admission. It was initially created to ensure that student-athletes were close enough to the average non-athlete applicant to be admitted—to make sure that academically unqualified students weren’t getting in solely based on their athletic ability—but its use has expanded to be more general.


The AI helps admissions officers make decisions on thousands of applications in a few short months. It’s not the only factor in an admissions decision, but it is an important one.


How Is the Academic Index Calculated?


Colleges don’t publicize how they calculate the Academic Index, but the nation got an inside look into the process in Dr. Michele Hernandez’s book A Is for Admission: The Insider’s Guide to Getting into the Ivy League and Other Top Colleges. She explains how Ivy League schools compute the Academic Index.


In general, the Academic Index takes into account two main factors:



SAT Subject Tests were previously included in this calculation, but they have since been discontinued.


The school then converts each piece of information into a score on a scale ranging from 20 to 80, with 80 being the best score—roughly equivalent to a 4.0 unweighted GPA or a 1600 on the SAT. The two areas are added together to get an index score out of 160.


In addition to calculating your Academic Index, many schools categorize AI scores, such as Tier 1, 2, 3, and so on. While the exact number and structure of the categories differ, admissions officers know which categories they typically admit students from so they can concentrate their energy on those applicants.


Why Is the Academic Index Important?


Top schools know that they generally admit students within a certain AI range. Because they know which AI scores correlate with the academic performance they are looking for, the harsh reality is that the AI is often used as a screening tool in admissions. If an applicant’s AI isn’t high enough, then it’s very likely that admissions officers won’t even read the rest of the application.


That said, a high Academic Index doesn’t mean that you are a shoo-in. It just means that you are considered a serious applicant, and admissions officers will take the time to holistically review your application, including reviewing your transcript, essays, and extracurricular involvement. It’s still possible that you won’t be admitted with a high AI, but having a high AI makes it more likely for you to be admitted.


Although Ivy League schools pioneered the AI, many other top schools use a variant of the AI in their own admissions process. If you are considering applying to a selective school, then understanding the importance of the Academic Index will help you set realistic expectations about your chances of admission.


How Has the Academic Index Changed with Test-Optional Policies?


More and more schools have become test optional or even test blind in recent years. If you don’t submit test scores, schools will depend more on your transcript to determine your academic qualifications.


If a school you are applying to is test optional (not test blind), it’s generally in your best interest to take the SAT or ACT and aim for a score towards the top range of the middle 50% percentile for the schools on your list. Having a good score can only help you.


Is Your Academic Index Strong Enough for Your Dream Schools?


Whether or not your AI will get you past your dream school’s screening depends on a school’s AI threshold and your personal academic profile. While no one can really calculate your AI at any school except that school’s admissions officers, CollegeVine’s free chancing engine can let you know how your grades, course rigor, and test scores compare to the statistics of accepted students at different schools.


This information can help you see if you are on the right track for admission to your dream school. If you’re not on track, don’t worry—the engine will also provide you with tips on how to improve your profile.


For more information about strengthening your academic profile, check out these posts:


What is Actually a Good GPA for College?

What is Class Rank and Why is it Important?

How to Get a Perfect 1600 Score on the SAT

What’s the Highest ACT Score Possible?

Brooke Elkjer
Blog Writer

Short Bio
Brooke is a film and television production assistant, originally from Dallas, Texas. She holds Bachelor’s degrees in English and Neuroscience from the University of Southern California. At USC, Brooke was a producer for the intersectional feminist production company on campus, a Resident Assistant (RA), and a student worker for the Thematic Option Honors GE Program. In her free time, Brooke enjoys reading, writing, and watching Gilmore Girls.