Colleges Know More About You Than You Think

I recently learned about a program used in college admissions departments called Landscape. Landscape is produced by CollegeBoard. It is a standardized profile that compiles general data about a high school and its surrounding community and makes it available to college admissions departments. This is done to enhance their understanding of each applicant’s environment. It is an attempt to help admissions officials gain a clearer picture of the applicants behind the applications.

School-specific information classifies a school district as city, suburban, town, or rural. The size of the senior class is presented as the average number of students in the applicant’s class from freshman, sophomore and junior years. This number can be more meaningful than the number of seniors graduating in a given year. It allows admissions committees to better understand growth or decline in population within a district or area.

A very telling statistic is the percent of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch. This percentage is also reported as a three-year average. Of course, the average SAT scores are exclusive to CollegeBoard. They are determined by averaging the SAT scores of first year college students at four-year institutions attended by the three most recent graduating classes from the high school who took any College Board assessments. Also included is AP participation and performance. It takes into account the number of seniors taking AP courses, average number of AP Exams taken per student, the average AP score, and the number of unique exams administered. These data can give admissions committees an idea about rigor of the curriculum and how well the students perform in those challenging classes.

The test scores displayed in the Landscape software are based only on the scores that students choose to send to colleges. ACT scores are converted to SAT scores using concordance tables for ease of comparison. The applicant’s test score is presented alongside the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentile of SAT scores at the high school, based on that three-year average.

Along with the district and high school data, six key indicators about applicants’ communities are provided by the Landscape software. The source from which these indicators are derived is census tract data for both the neighborhood and the high school. These six indicators are college attendance, household structure, median family income, housing stability, education levels, and crime. They are averaged and presented on a 1-100 scale. The higher the value, the higher level of challenge related to educational opportunities and outcomes.

This is only one of the tools used alongside the application file to make admissions decisions. Combine all this information with that in social media profiles and very little is hidden from the colleges during application season.

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