It had the makings of a viral tweet: topical and inflammatory. It was also totally fake.
In a February post to Twitter that instantly drew furious rebukes — which couldn’t stop it from being widely shared and agreed upon in conservative circles — user “Peachy Keenan” claimed to have heard from a friend that the friend’s niece had been rejected by even her safety schools, despite having a 4.2 GPA and scoring 1450 on the SAT. The dreaded rejections came, naturally, at the expense of C-student POC kids in her class.
College admission season update – From a friend:
“Niece got 1450 SAT, 4.2 GPA, competitive athlete. She didn’t even get into her safety schools. Going to junior college this year and is very depressed. The POC kids in her class, C students at best, are all headed to Berkeley,… https://t.co/AQV0PjF6sd
— Peachy Keenan (@KeenanPeachy) February 24, 2023
The culture-war chicanery was immediately undermined by the fact that at the time it was tweeted in late February, admission decisions at the schools Keenan mentions —Berkeley, UCLA, USC, and Stanford — had not yet been announced. Decisions at those universities, in fact, go out in March.
SORRY, FICTIONAL FRIEND’S NIECE: YOU DON’T STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD
The tweet did not mention business schools, but it raises an interesting question: On the merits of her GPA and SAT score, how likely is it that this fictional woman would gain admission to the top-ranked undergraduate B-schools? With a mountain of school-provided data at our disposal, we dug into the numbers to find out — and we have some mixed news for the already “depressed” “competitive athlete.”
To be clear, Peachy’s friend’s niece’s GPA is solid, if unspectacular. Fourteen schools in P&Q‘s 92-school 2023 ranking boast class GPA averages of 4.0 or more, up from nine schools in last year’s ranking and 11 schools in 2020. Leading the way: 4.41 at No. 10 UNC Kenan-Flagler. The average GPA at eight of the top 10 schools in our ranking (the others, Virginia McIntire School of Commerce and Cornell Dyson SC Johnson, did not provide GPAs): 4.05, up slightly from 4.03 last year and up significantly from 3.92 in 2020. Seven of the 10 schools saw their class GPA average rise this year.
Given that the average GPA of the top 25 ranked schools is 3.96, on the basis of this one data point, the niece has a shot at an elite program. But her SAT score is likely to harm more than help her cause.
Even as the percentages of those submitting exam scores for admission has plummeted (more on that later), the number of schools in P&Q‘s ranking with SAT score averages over 1500 grew to five from just two last year and three in 2020. Twenty-four schools boast scores of 1400 or above, including 11 schools over 1450. In our top 10, the average score is 1478, up from 1463 last year and 1452 in 2020.
Clearly the fictional friend’s niece who had conservative Twitter briefly in an uproar by confirming their priors will have trouble standing out from the crowd. She should take solace: The total average score for 82 schools in our ranking for which there is sufficient data is 1305.4, up 1.5% from last year. That’s between the 84th and 85th percentile of all SAT takers — so she should be able to find a reasonable target school to aim for.
62 RANKED SCHOOLS HAVE SEEN THEIR GPAs RISE SINCE 2020
GPA is a funny thing. Once you get past undergrad, it begins to matter very little. But to get into undergrad, you need a sterling score. And each year that goes by makes once-strong scores look weaker and weaker — witness the fact that over the last two years, only one school in P&Q's 2023 top 25 saw its class average GPA decline: No. 24 Washington Foster School of Business, where it dipped an insignificant 0.02 to 3.87.
After UNC Kenan-Flagler, which led not only the top 10 but all 91 other ranked schools this year, the top five GPA scores were rounded out by No. 48 South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business (last year’s No. 1 in this metric) at 4.39; No. 14 Villanova School of Business at 4.32; No. 86 Florida International College of Business at 4.29; and No. 9 Washington Olin Business School at 4.28. Villanova, Olin and Moore all were top-five in GPA last year as well.
Fourteen schools reported average GPAs over 4.0, including three that moved into 4.0 territory this year: Indiana Kelley School of Business, to 4.13 from 3.89; Michigan State Broad College of Business, to 4.08 from 3.78; and The Knauss School of Business at the University of San Diego, to 4.0 from 3.95.
Overall, 62 ranked schools have seen their GPAs increase since 2020, while only 16 have seen declines. The biggest improvements: No. 45 Arizona Eller College of Management, up 0.60 to 3.6; No. 66 Towson University College of Business and Economics, up 0.40 to 3.85; No. 43 Wake Forest University School of Business, up 0.39 to 4.12; No. 86 Florida International, up 0.31 to 4.29; and No. 78 Ithaca College, up 0.27 to 3.30.
And the biggest drop-offs: No. 71 Texas-Dallas Jindal School of Management, down 0.40 to 3.48; No. 76 University of the Pacific Eberhardt School of Business, down 0.35 to 3.45; No. 62 UNC Wilmington Cameron School of Business, down 0.17 to 3.99; and No. 35 Houston Bauer College of Business, down 0.16 to 3.71.
PERCENTAGE OF STUDENTS REPORTING SAT SCORES PLUMMETS
SAT scores, like GPAs, have generally been on the rise the last two years. No. 7 NYU Stern, which leads all schools for the second year in a row this year, has seen its class average jump 35 points since 2020, to 1542 this year, more than 20 points higher than the next-closest school. The top five for SAT average in the 2023 ranking are rounded out by No. 6 Cornell Dyson (1520), No. 9 Washington Olin (1520), No. 3 Penn Wharton (1519), and No. 46 Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business (1506). The top-ranked school overall, USC Marshall School of Business, reported a class average SAT score of 1480, up a single point from last year and good for sixth place.
Overall, 59 schools in the 2023 ranking are up, and 23 are down. Forty-seven saw double-digit gains, and 20 double-digits losses. The biggest gain in the top 10 since 2020 is Wharton's, which grew its SAT average 22 points; the biggest overall has been at No. 53 Rochester Institute of Technology Saunders College of Business, which is up an astounding 129 to 1321. Also notable: the Lipscomb University College of Business in Nashville, Tennessee, up 84 points to 1245; and Florida International, up 83 points to 1287.
And the biggest drop-offs: In the top 10, Georgetown McDonough School of Business saw its SAT average decline 26 points to 1423; Washington Foster's 93-point dip to 1319 from 2020 to 2021 (the school did not report an SAT average for 2022) was the biggest overall. The No. 65-ranked University of Michigan-Dearborn also reported a notable decline, by 62 points to 1092.
The really interesting data is in the percentages of students who submitted SAT (and ACT) scores for admission. In short, it continues to nosedive. The number of schools in P&Q's ranking with 50% or more reporting SATs dropped to 15 from 25 last year; the number with 60% or more dropped to a dozen from 13; and the number with 70% dropped to four from six. Only two schools — Florida International at 88% and Georgetown McDonough at 81% — are over 80%, and none is over 90%.
The ranks of schools below 30% also shrank, to 37 from 41, as did the number of schools below 20% (19 from 23) and below 10% (five from seven). Overall, though 70 schools saw their reporting percentages drop — including big drop-offs at Pacific Eberhardt, down 73 points to 22%; UNC Kenan-Flagler, down 71.5 points to 22%; Rutgers Business School-Newark, down 68.4 to 26.6%; Marian University Byrum School of Business in Indianapolis, down 67.7 to 7.3%; and the University of Pittsburgh, down 63.6 to 18.4% — and only eight saw their percentages rise.
Notably, Emory Goizueta Business School is up 15 percentage points, to 66%, since 2020, making Emory one of only three top-25 schools with a higher reporting percentage in that span; the others are Georgetown (81% from 75% in 2021 and 63% in 2020) and Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business, up 10 points to 72%.
ACT: STILL PLAYING SECOND FIDDLE
And what about the ACT? It appears not to have benefited much from the decline of the SAT. Seventy schools saw their ACT reporting percentages decline, and only four saw gains. Notably, No. 3 Wharton, which had been at 33% ACT reporting for two straight years while it was the top-ranked school, saw its number drop to 21% this year; another highly ranked school, Washington Olin, has seen its ACT number drop by more than half, from 69% to 31%, in two years. The University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management saw its ACT reporting decline by 54 points to 38.8% since 2020, and the University of Kentucky Gatton College of Business and Economics saw a 47.5-point decline to 37%.
A few schools, seemingly concentrated in the Midwest, are bastions of ACT preference over the SAT, including Minnesota Carlson, Wisconsin-Madison, Ohio University, Washington Olin, Oklahoma Price, Lipscomb in Nashville, and St. Thomas Opus in Minneapolis. Top schools for ACT reporting are Oklahoma Price (73%), the University of Akron (68.9%), Bowling Green State University Schmidthorst College of Business (55%), and St. Thomas Opus (53%). But for the most part the SAT remains the go-to entrance exam for B-schools.
As with SAT scores, NYU Stern is the top school for ACTs, with an average score of 35, one of 30 schools with a score of 30 or greater (up from 26 schools in 2021). The top five this year is rounded out by Washington Olin at 34.1 and three schools at 34: Wharton, Cornell Dyson, and Carnegie Mellon Tepper. Big gains in ACT average were reported at Purdue University's Daniels School of Business, up 3.9 points to 30.9; Iowa State University Ivy College of Business, up 3.6 to 23.6; and Sacred Heart University, up 3.5 to 27.7. Big declines happened at St. John's University Tobin College of Business, down 8 points to 28; and Texas A&M University Mays Business School, down 5.5 to 22. Tobin's score two years ago was 36.
Overall, 35 schools are up in ACT average, and 29 schools are down. Nine are even. The average score for a school in the top 10 in P&Q's ranking: 33.25 (eight schools), up slightly from 33.17 last year.
It's the Stern School's second straight year with the top ACT score. "NYU Stern attracts talented multidimensional students from all around the globe and the NYU Admissions team has a really difficult job!" Robert Whitelaw, dean of the Stern undergraduate college, told P&Q last year. "But the most important takeaway for potential applicants to Stern is that our approach to admissions is holistic and looks at not only academic potential and demonstrated dedication to extracurriculars but also who they are and why they want to study business in New York City. Our goal is to enroll a diverse and well-rounded class with a passion for business in all of its many dimensions."
See the next pages for GPA, SAT & ACT scores and reporting trends at the 92 B-schools in the 2023 P&Q ranking.
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