If you're in the midst of the college application process or you're planning to be there soon, you probably want the hard facts about your target schools. Instead of digging around all over the internet, you can find a plethora of information in one spot – the Common Data Set.
The scoop: The Common Data Set was established so families could compare the same information across schools in a simple and easy-to-read format. Participating schools typically share their Common Data Sets on their websites, or you can find one by simply searching the web using the term “Common Data Set" followed by the name of the college. Not all schools participate in the CDS program, but if your target college does, it will come up in the search results.
In addition to finding out the average test scores, acceptance rates and ethnic backgrounds of admitted students, you can also find dozens of unique facts that you may not be able to get anywhere else, and that you never knew were available. Check out the following five facts you can often find on a school's CDS report.
One of the most interesting parts of the CDS is the listing of how important certain factors are in admission decisions for freshmen. This is where you'll find out whether a school considers your class rank or your expressed interest when deciding whether to admit you, or if those items are irrelevant.
Taking the University of Michigan as an example, the CDS for 2017-2018 indicates that the school puts the following weight on these factors:
- Rigor of secondary school record
- Academic GPA
- Standardized test scores
- Application essay
- Character/personal qualities
- First generation
- Extracurricular activities
- Alumni/ae relation
- Geographical residence
- State residency
- Volunteer work
- Work experience
- Level of applicant's interest
- Class rank
- Interview (the possible exceptions are music, theatre, dance and engineering)
- Religions affiliation/commitment
- Racial/ethnic status
Some students assume that if they get accepted to their dream school, they can rest easy with the decision and then take a year off to tour the world, work to save up more money or do myriad other activities. But the reality is that not every college allows accepted students to defer admissions.
Reviewing the CDS of the University of California Irvine, under the question “Does your institution allow students to postpone enrollment after admission?" the college replies “No."
However, when looking at the CDS for Emory University, the answer is “Yes" and the CDS notes that students can defer for a maximum of two years.
Students often wonder how many math, science, foreign language or other high school courses they'll need to qualify for admission at certain colleges. Fortunately, this information is usually available in the CDS.
For instance, Wake Forest University requires the following classes from its applicants:
- Four English classes
- Three Math
- One Science
- Two foreign language
- Two social studies
Wake Forest recommends that you take the following:
- Four English classes
- Four math
- Four science
- Four foreign language
- Four social studies
When colleges have waitlists, the CDS can sometimes show you how many students are placed on those lists – and how many eventually are accepted from them.
Reviewing the CDS of Boston University, you'll see that 4,399 students were placed on the waitlist during the 2017-2018 period. Of those, 2,584 accepted their positions on the list. And just seven freshman applicants were eventually accepted off that waitlist. Therefore, of the 4,399 placed on the waitlist, just 0.001 percent were actually offered admission.
Many families like to know not only how many students are accepted to a college, but also how many students stay. You can often find this information in the CDS.
According to New York University's 2017-2018 CDS, you'll see that 93 percent of students who entered the school as freshmen returned again the following fall.
These factors represent a small fraction of what you can find in a school's CDS – spend some time leafing through your target colleges' Common Data Sets to gain a more complete picture of their attributes and whether the schools are a fit for you.
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