Athletes: Raise Your Academic Index By Raising Your Test Scores

Athletes: Raise Your Academic Index By Raising Your Test Scores

18 September, 2017

If you’re a great athlete with lower scores, you may need teammates to raise you into the admissible range or the coach will tell you to take the test again.  It may often be what admissions is telling them. If you’re a good athlete that is being recruited with good scores, you’re in better shape but still might be asked to take the test again for the good of the team.  Don’t be insulted if it’s a school you really want to attend – be a team player.

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It’s been almost thirty years since I worked at Brown University, serving as Athletics Liaison as part of my role as Associate Director of Admission.  It was at that time that I became familiar with the Athletic Index (AI) used by the Ivy League, which helps to monitor the admission of student-athletes to the Ancient Eight.  In talking recently with several coaches in the league, it’s surprising how little has changed over the years.  Despite a bit of fine tuning, the system has served the league well, providing a type of competitive equity that each school and the Ivy League monitors.

The original mathematical formula of the AI consisted of three components each worth a maximum of 80 points. The first component was based on class rank or GPA.  An A+ student (or a student at the top of her class) would earn the maximum 80 points, an A student 77 points, A- 71, B+ 67 and so on.  This is a fairly set number based on your performance in school, and one good semester can rarely radically change this number.

Where you can really impact your AI score is by raising your SAT/ACT test scores, as the remaining two-thirds of the formula highlights the premium put on standardized testing.  (It’s important to note that while many schools have made standardized testing optional, none of the eight Ivy League schools have done so.)  In the original formula, a perfect score on the SAT (or an equivalent ACT of 36) was worth 80 points, and the average of the three subject tests (now SAT 2’s) was worth the final 80 points, meaning an A+ student with perfect testing could earn a maximum AI of 240 points – 80 for the A+, 80 for a perfect SAT/ACT score, and 80 more for perfect SAT 2’s.

My rule of thumb over the years has been a B student will need scores in the 1400 range to be in the ballpark, while an A student might only need 1300.  If you get much lower than that you may need to be the top prospect that coach is recruiting.

Here, however, is where a few things have changed over time.  The number of SAT 2’s was decreased to two during the last decade, and now most of the schools, with the exception of certain selective programs at individual schools, have made them optional.  For those students not submitting SAT 2’s, the SAT alone counts as two-thirds of the formula.  Think about that for a moment.  A B+ student earning 67 points would add 120 points for a 1200 SAT score for a total of 187 but could jump that to 207 with a 1400 score.  A student who is very strong in math and science might submit two very high SAT 2’s if he wants to add to his AI total.

Some of what I say next may seem confusing but it is actually quite logical.  Each admission office of the Ivy League will compile an AI for each student to get a school average.  As you might guess, Harvard, Yale and Princeton (HYP) will have the highest AI for their students with the other five following suit.  What the Ivy League asks is that each athletic class be within one standard deviation of the class average of that school.  We’re not going to get into all the math here but what it means is that the HYP AI average for athletes will be higher than at the other schools.

Since my days at Brown, the League has fine-tuned football and Ice hockey by creating bands, or ranges, with the maximum number of students that can fall in each band mandated by the league.  If you’re an athlete in those sports, you might discuss with the coach recruiting you where you might fall.

Where it gets much more interesting is in the other sports where the admitted group must have an average equal to one standard deviation from the class norm.  Each school can decide how to do this.  Again, using logic, think numbers.  A school can make a decision to give more places to sports like track, lacrosse, baseball or soccer that might need larger numbers versus sports like tennis, golf or squash.  Or a school can decide they want to prioritize several sports, giving them greater numbers than another school in the league, or look at the needs of each program in a given year.  These were discussions I had at Brown with the Director of Athletics and the Dean of Admission and continue today at schools in the league.

What does it all mean for you?  Because it is so much easier to raise test scores than a GPA, an Ivy coach may ask you to retake the test to help both your status and their team AI average.  If you’re a great athlete with lower scores, you may need teammates to raise you into the admissible range or the coach will tell you to take the test again.  It may often be what admissions is telling them. If you’re a good athlete that is being recruited with good scores, you’re in better shape but still might be asked to take the test again for the good of the team.  Don’t be insulted if it’s a school you really want to attend – be a team player.

My rule of thumb over the years has been a B student will need scores in the 1400 range to be in the ballpark, while an A student might only need 1300.  If you get much lower than that you may need to be the top prospect that coach is recruiting.

Remember that the AI is only used by the Ivy League.  The NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) use a variation of banding that follows much of what the Ivy League does but is a bit more flexible. These are schools like Williams, Amherst, Middlebury, Wesleyan, Bowdoin etc.  Don’t be afraid to ask the coach recruiting you where you fall and what you might do to move into a different band.

The bottom line is simple.  Get to work on those SAT/ACT scores and you’ll help both yourself and the team you hope to join.

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