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Two studies show that admissions scattergrams can reduce the number of applications to elite colleges

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An example of a hypothetical scrawgram that shows the test scores and grades for past applicants of a college. The dotted line highlights the average grades and scores of accepted applicants. Source: Figure 1 in Tomkins et al, “Showing high-achieving college applicants past admissions outcomes increases undermatching,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Oct 2023

Many high school students struggle to figure out which of the nation’s 2,600 Colleges and universities with four-year degrees should be listed as safety, reach and target schools. Schools have spent millions on private companies to provide data about the past of students. Recent studies show that this data could discourage students from applying for the top schools.

One of the most popular data displays in the college application process is a scattergram, which shows the grades and test scores of admitted and rejected students from a student’s own high school at each college. Scattergrams are a bit like looking at horse race results for each school except the names of former classmates aren’t displayed.

A hypothetical scattergram illustrating a test.



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