UGA admissions chief on AP classes and SAT writing test

AP versus non AP? Does the SAT writing test matter?

These were some of the question raised on the Get Schooled blog last week. (By the way, get ready for the release of the state SAT scores Tuesday. AJC.com is hoping to get the district scores up soon after they are released to DOE.)

I asked Nancy McDuff, associate vice president for admissions and enrollment management, to look at the blog postings and offer some guidance.
Here is her thoughtful response:

Let me start by cautioning your readers to remember that one person’s experience at a school, at some time in the past, may not be the best example for their own planning.  It is always best to get current information from the college that you are considering as criteria may change, circumstances are often different in ways that are not easily apparent, and sometimes just wrong information is stated from a well intended individual.

Assuming that readers will seek out for themselves from official sources just what is considered important in that school’s admission criteria, I want to only make a couple of general statements and then respond regarding UGA and our admission criteria.

Regarding the use of writing in the SAT, many studies were done over the last 24 months as adequate time and critical mass of test takers provided information which could be used to determine if the addition of the writing portion of the SAT improved the test’s ability to assist colleges in making good admission decisions.  (Remember that the SAT writing section is made up of more than just the actual essay).
In addition to being part of a review of over 100 different colleges and universities in the U.S. completed by the College Board to see if the writing section added to the SAT’s ability to predict success, UGA faculty in the Economics Department completed a study, as did the Office of Admissions.
All three studies (two of them independent from the College Board review) showed that adding the writing section improved our ability to predict success at UGA, but only as the test is combined with high school GPA and rigor of curriculum.
After careful review by our Faculty Admissions Committee, UGA began using the writing section of both the SAT and the ACT in every admissions review this past year. But has long been our philosophy, the standardized test is carefully weighed with the high school GPA and rigor of curriculum, not as a stand along component.

Regarding the posts on AP classes and GPA, if you ask any admissions officer they will want to enroll students who take the most rigorous classes available and do well in them. But schools do look at AP/IB/Honors, etc differently.  At UGA, we do consider the rigor of the courses taken by the student in relation to the environment where the student is taking classes as part of our admissions review.  Not every high school has the same resources to offer Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) classes.

I hope that any of your posters who are interested in how the University of Georgia makes admissions decisions will take a few minutes to review the information that we make available on our Web site.

This site includes full explanation of how UGA uses factors in freshman admissions with clear examples such as:
GPA and rigor of curriculum weigh roughly three to two to standardized tests in predicting academic success at UGA. Effectively, this means that a student with a 4.0 GPA in a superior curriculum of Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses might be admitted with an SAT score at or below 1000. Yet, another student with a 3.0 GPA and an SAT score of 1400 might not be admitted, if the student opts for no more than a standard college prep curriculum with few if any Honors, AP or IB courses.

Additionally, Senior Associate Director David Graves has started a blog on our Web site for students and families and has addressed issues similar to some of those raised by the posters.  They may want to review what David has written.

Thanks, Nancy G. McDuff
Associate Vice President for Admissions and Enrollment Management
The University of Georgia

23 comments Add your comment

What is right for kids?

August 24th, 2009
11:50 am

so instead of giving students test taking strategies, we need to be engaging them in thoughtful responses to open ended questions. huh. go figure.

Maureen's accountability metric

August 24th, 2009
1:06 pm

Maureen, why are you suppressing the news that APS has restored the links to the cheating report? You promised to look into it and obviously you did not keep your word.

Nor have you said a single word about the cheating scandal on your Learning Curve column.

If you, who for all practical purposes, are the “education voice” of the AJC, and you won’t address in print a scandal that strikes at the very integrity of the school system, then is it not fair to ask if you are in fact silently condoning the cheating, and worse actively enabling it by suppressing information about the story?

And what does this say about your statement that you write with a single lens as to “what’s best for students is Georgia”?

Is suppressing information about a cheating scandal in the best interests of students in Georgia Maureen?

If any reader out there feels this is not a legitimate, valid question to ask of Maureen, please, for the purposes of open and honest debate, state why.

Maureen's accountability metric

August 24th, 2009
1:14 pm

Why won’t Maureen ask Dana Tofig, who she obviously has a good working relationship with based on the number of times she has utilized him on this blog, for a comment concerning the DOE’s response to the “investigation” of the APS cheating scandal?

Maureen, is not asking Dana to comment on this scandal part of your single lens focus on “what’s best for students in Georgia”.

Dunwoody Mom

August 24th, 2009
1:32 pm

While, I hate “I told you so”……..

“To be most competitive, though, you should challenge yourself by pursuing the most rigorous courses available in your high school that you, your parents, and your guidance counselor deem appropriate to your level of ability in each respective academic area. The number of courses taken beyond the minimum requirement of 16—not to mention those designated as advanced, Honors, gifted, AP or IB—will be considered in the admission process. In fact, in recent years, 98% of first-year students admitted to UGA pursued an honors or advanced level curricular track”

Dunwoody Mom

August 24th, 2009
1:34 pm

Oh, and Georgia Tech pays no attention to the essay portion of the SAT. This from a parent who went to an admission seminar at Georgia Tech recently.

Dunwoody Mom

August 24th, 2009
1:34 pm

I hate to say I told you so………

“To be most competitive, though, you should challenge yourself by pursuing the most rigorous courses available in your high school that you, your parents, and your guidance counselor deem appropriate to your level of ability in each respective academic area. The number of courses taken beyond the minimum requirement of 16—not to mention those designated as advanced, Honors, gifted, AP or IB—will be considered in the admission process. In fact, in recent years, 98% of first-year students admitted to UGA pursued an honors or advanced level curricular track.”

Dunwoody Mom

August 24th, 2009
1:44 pm

“GPA and rigor of curriculum weigh roughly three to two to standardized tests in predicting academic success at UGA. Effectively, this means that a student with a 4.0 GPA in a superior curriculum of Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses might be admitted with an SAT score at or below 1000. Yet, another student with a 3.0 GPA and an SAT score of 1400 might not be admitted.”

I’ll take apologies now……

Fulton Teacher

August 24th, 2009
1:48 pm

This is great information to share with students. I think I’ll forward it to my child’s teachers so that they can share it with students.

Dunwoody Mom I doubt that you would get into Tech with a 1000 SAT score as UGA said they will accept. It really depends on the institution that a student wants to attend.

Dunwoody Mom

August 24th, 2009
1:54 pm

Fulton Teacher, I argued last week that more weight is given to GPA plus rigor of course and was told by several people that the GPA always wins out.

jim d

August 24th, 2009
3:59 pm

Somethings just never change nor do they improve–2 things that come to mind are education and the ajc’s abillity to capture posts to these blogs

Cere

August 24th, 2009
4:02 pm

Effectively, this means that a student with a 4.0 GPA in a superior curriculum of Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses might be admitted with an SAT score at or below 1000. Yet, another student with a 3.0 GPA and an SAT score of 1400 might not be admitted.”

I don’t follow that. How could you get As on AP classes, and score lower on the SAT than someone who didn’t take AP? Maybe UGA should pay more attention to the SAT, as it is standardized – there can be no grade inflation as there can be with high school grades. To me – this method only encourages grade inflation. In theory – wouldn’t you think that someone who received As in AP would also score well on a standardized test?

jim d

August 24th, 2009
4:05 pm

omg, here we go again–releasing the sat scores just brings out all the whinners telling us about the percentage of georgia students that take it compared to those in other states.

They really sound like a broken record

Lynn

August 24th, 2009
4:06 pm

Dunwoody Mom… I think you were told that rigor only wins out if the resulting grade is an A. I know of far too many students not admitted who had a high number of AP courses, but may have made a B as opposed to an A in the course. Other students had few AP courses but had more As in the regular college level courses and were admitted. UGA is telling you this when they confirm that GPA is the most heavily weighed item. Rigor is considered, but only to a much lower level. Part of the explanation for that is that a school in one part of the state may only offer 4 AP classes while others offer 20. The students without access to more AP classes are of course not penalized for not having that option.

As a parent I wish standardized course scores were weighed more heavily. Grading standards are different throughout the state. What might be an A at one school is a B or even a high C at others. By so heavily weighing the GPA, the problems with uneven grading are not taken into account.

jim d

August 24th, 2009
4:08 pm

Cere, it happens all the time– Any kid with a brain know they don’t have to kill themselves in HS and spend a lot of time partying–only getting serious when they think the party may end with daddy pulling the funding for college.

Dunwoody Mom

August 24th, 2009
4:10 pm

Well, that is not how I read the link, but whatever. My child has no desire to go to UGA anyway. :)

jim d

August 24th, 2009
4:19 pm

dunwoody mom,

Smart kid!

jim d

August 24th, 2009
4:20 pm

mine even bailed out of georgia all together–leaving a hope scholarship to someone else

Dunwoody Mom

August 24th, 2009
4:35 pm

Well, so far, my child is looking at 2 schools (I’ve told her she needs at least 4) and they are both out of state.

jim d

August 24th, 2009
4:48 pm

Mine looked at about 10–two were out of state–his mind was made up before we exited the Lesesne Gate.

Old School

August 24th, 2009
7:48 pm

Dunwoody Mom, if your daughter is looking at a major not taught at any Georgia institution, go to http://www.sreb.org and look for it under the Academic Common Market. Our youngest was a RIM (Recording Industry) major at MTSU and not only loved the school, she thrived. We saved a bundle because she and her major qualified under the Academic Common Market (out of state fees are waived.)

Just a thought.

History1

August 24th, 2009
8:04 pm

I teach at a school that offers IB and AP and we have students admitted to Georgia every year with lower GPA and SAT scores than students who did not take IB or AP. Despite this we still have students and parents who demand their “capable” child be placed in standard classes to keep that 4.0, and when they aren’t admitted it is our fault.

Reality 2

August 24th, 2009
9:00 pm

I also find it difficult how students getting A’s in AP and Honors courses end up with below 1000 on SAT. But, the question many parents really want to know is which students have a better chance getting admitted: students with 3.5 GPA taking many AP and Honors courses with 1300 SAT, or students with 4.0 GPA taking only a few AP and Honors with 1300 SAT. I don’t think many students chose between all AP/Honors or no AP/Honors. Rather, the choice is usually somewhere in between. If you have had 2 AP’s and 3 Honors already, and you aren’t necessarily strong in math, are you better off taking AP calculus and risking a B or even a C, or take a regular math class and get an A.

Lynn

August 24th, 2009
11:01 pm

That’s the question Reality 2. Does the GPA outweigh rigor or is it the other way around?