There’s Washington Olin, and there’s everyone else. For the second year in a row, only one school in our annual ranking of undergraduate business schools achieved an average SAT score of 1500 among admits — and it was Washington University in St. Louis’ Olin Business School, which recorded a 1507 average score last year and actually improved on it this year with a 1510. Like last year, Washington Olin is the No. 2 school overall in this year’s ranking.
No. 13 Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business followed with 1494. No. 3 University of California-Berkeley Haas School of Business was next with a 1490 average and No. 1 Wharton was fourth, averaging 1486, with Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business rounding out the top five at 1473. The average SAT among all participating schools was 1308. A 1500 score is in the 99th percentile of the nationwide average, according to the College Board, whereas a score of 1400 is in the 97th percentile.
“Olin’s undergraduate business program is widely recognized as one of the nation’s very best,” says Jennifer LaRusso-Leung, a master consultant with The MBA Exchange and managing consultant for their undergraduate admissions practice, AdvanceAdmissions. “The relatively high average SAT score is not surprising when you consider that every BSBA admit at Olin ranked in the top 10% of his or her high school graduating class.
“Their applicants are smart, highly motivated individuals who realize that having a strong test score is virtually a requirement for admission.”
MORE THAN HALF OF RANKED SCHOOLS IN SAT 90TH PERCENTILE
Of the 82 schools ranked last year by Poets&Quants, 20 reported average SAT scores of 1400 or higher. This year that number dropped to 19, despite the ranking growing to 88 schools.
To finish in the 90th percentile, according to the College Board, applicants must score at least a 1290. More than half (49) of the 88 schools reported at least a 1290. The lowest reported score of ranked schools was Texas Tech’s Rawls College of Business’ 1093, which is in the 65th percentile nationwide.
For percentage of students finishing in the top 10% of their high school class, the University of California-Irvine’s Merage School of Business topped all ranked schools with 98% of their graduating Class of 2016 finishing in the top 10% of their high school class. Wharton followed with 97%. Washington University, Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce, and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business all notched scores of 90% or higher in the category.
Among all schools, the average students finishing in the top 10% of their high school class was 47%.
DEATH OF SAT GREATLY EXAGGERATED
In 2016, SAT went from 2400-point test to 1600-point test. Long before then, school officials, students, and observers all were proclaiming the impending death of the test. It was imminently to be replaced by the ACT; some schools would do away with standardized tests altogether. But a funny thing happened on the way to the SAT’s funeral: The corpse came back to life. In 2018, 2.1 million SAT test takers in the class of 2018 took the new SAT, a 25% increase over the class of 2017.
Expanded fee waivers are one reason more people are taking the test; a reported 21% used a waiver to take the test this year. Another big reason is SAT School Day, which continues to grow rapidly in U.S. secondary schools. According to the College Board, about 460,000 students in the class of 2017 (or 27% of SAT test takers in that class) took the SAT on a school day — but almost 780,000 students in the class of 2018 — 36% — took the SAT on a school day.
“College applicants come from a broad range of high schools with varying levels of academic rigor,” says LaRusso-Leung, a former associate director of admissions at Columbia Business School. “So, the admissions staff uses the SAT and ACT as a ‘common denominator’ and baseline that facilitates the analysis and comparison of all candidates. These two tests are more similar than different, but it’s not easy to predict which one is the better option for a given applicant. That’s why we recommend taking practice tests and getting feedback from a skilled tutor who’s familiar with both the SAT and ACT.”
ROBUST ECONOMY MEANS ‘INCREASED APPETITE FOR RECRUITING’
Heightened use of the SAT is just one sign of the overall health of undergraduate business education, LaRusso-Leung tells Poets&Quants for Undergrads. A healthy economy is one factor driving the growth, she says.
“Interest among high school students and, more importantly, their parents in undergraduate business degrees continues to drive growth in the volume of applications targeting those programs,” she says. “Candidly, there’s no end in sight for this growth. There are two additional factors that encourage more applicants to seek BBA degrees. First, the U.S. economy remains robust, so major companies have an increased appetite for recruiting and hiring fresh grads from top business schools.
“Second, the simultaneous softening of application volume for MBA degrees — for even some of the highest-ranked MBA programs — motivates leading business schools that offer both BBA and MBA programs to tap into the strong demand by attracting and enrolling more of the former. Simply stated, that’s where the action is.”