There are thousands of colleges in the U.S., with hundreds of them offering a good quality education to students. However, most of the International students and parents of students aspire and hope to get into one of the top colleges or Ivy League. There are a number of guidance businesses around the world that guarantee admissions to Ivy League or have the “Admissions to Ivy League” as the selling point.
As we all know, to get into Ivy League or a top college in the U.S., you need to have excellent grades, school rank and SAT scores (including SAT subject scores). If you look at the top colleges, they have an acceptance rate of around 10% on average, with a few of them such as Stanford and Harvard getting close to 5%. If collectively these top 20 colleges admit approximately 50-60, 000 students per year, you better strive to have a high GPA and high SAT score (more than 1500 to even get into the serious pool of applications). There are about 3.3 million students taking SAT & ACT test annually. To be in the top 60-75, 000 of students, you need to have a percentile score of 98% or so in SAT & ACT.
Below is a SAT score table that shows the percentile distribution. This will helps students to get an idea on how well they need to score to be have a competitive application at the top colleges or universities in the USA. SAT in itself is not the deciding factor, but SAT/ACT scores, grades, class rank play a very important in your application getting a good Academic score by the admission teams and closely looked at for further review, unless you have a “Superstar” extracurricular credentials in other fields such as sports, music, leadership, community service etc.
New SAT Score %(percentile) Schools Chance (with good grade/high class rank)
1550 99.6% Top 10-15 schools
1500 99.0% Top 15-25 schools
1450 98.0% Top 30-40 schools
1400 96.0% Top 50-75 schools
Getting the “best fit” college list is critical as any student cannot realistically apply to more than 8-10 schools without impacting the quality of application. Number of other factors matter but you need to have a “super spike” application for the highly competitive universities.
Hope this helps International students to prepare better as they think of their study abroad undergraduate admission plans for U.S. colleges.