Archive for November 1st, 2012

November 1, 2012

Behind the scenes of the Academic Index

by Grace

While many of us know the Academic Index as a way to gauge a student’s chances of admission to an Ivy League school, we may not be familiar with its history.

Originally developed as a means of establishing common standards for student-athlete applicants, the Academic Index (AI) has become a sort of shorthand for ranking students. Other colleges, elite and otherwise, may also use variants of the Academic in their admission process.

The Ivy League created the Academic Index about 25 years ago. 

… the league came up with a measurement called the Academic Index, which gives all prospective high school recruits a number, roughly from 170 to 240, that summarizes their high school grade-point averages and scores on standardized tests like the SAT. The index number of every admitted recruit is shared among the member institutions to guarantee that no vastly underqualified recruit has been admitted at a rival institution and to allow member universities to compare classwide index averages for athletes against similar averages for the overall student body.

A.I details are hidden from the public.

While the Academic Index, referred to as the A.I., is a routine part of life in an Ivy League athletic department, outside those offices, it is frequently treated like the most furtive of secret fraternity handshakes. The specifics on how the Academic Index is calculated or how it is evaluated from university to university are not made public. The formula for calculating individual A.I. numbers is not available on the league Web site or in any other official public forum — even if there are dozens of such calculators listed online (nearly all of them inaccurate).

It is a league device established to ensure transparency, but many Ivy League coaches are instructed never to discuss it publicly, which adds to the sense of mystery.

“It is not a secret, but it is an internal tool,” said Robin Harris, the Ivy League executive director. “It’s a way for athletics to ensure a degree of competitive equality. Making it public is not within the intent of the A.I., because people might think it is a tool that determines admissibility, and it is not.

The A.I. was modified in 2011, with the minimum standard raised in conjunction with adjustments to the calculation method.  Every athletic recruit must now meet a higher standard.

Perhaps the most talked about goal of the A.I. is the academic credential minimum it establishes, a number below which virtually no Ivy League recruit can be admitted. This summer, that floor was raised from an Academic Index of 171 to 176, which roughly translates to a B student (3.0 on a 4.0 scale) with a score of 1140 on the old two-part SAT.

In fact, the change did not actually raise the bar for athletes.

Harris said the A.I. this year was not raised so much as adjusted. Class rank was once part of the formula, with grade-point average used only if class rank was not available. But because many high schools stopped reporting class rankings in recent years, it was eliminated over the summer. Harris said the change was made because when admissions directors recalculated multiple A.I.’s under the new system, a candidate who typically reached a score of 171 was now a 176….

Other things to know about the A.I.:

  • Math is overweighted
  • Average A.I. ‘s vary among Ivy League schools.  The same A.I. score that causes a recruit to be rejected by one school could meet the standard at another.
  • The overall A.I. average within a school reflects a balancing act in developing the numbers.  For example, some high-scoring athletes who end up warming the bench most of the season are typically balanced out by lower-scoring athletes who spend more time on the field.  A high-profile sport may be allowed a lower A.I. that is offset by a team of brainier athletes in a less important sport.
  • Recruited athletes comprise about 13% of an Ivy League freshman class.

Apparently most online A.I. calculators are wrong, but if you’d like to try one anyway one of most popular can be found on the CollegeConfidential website.  It’s important to remember that high statistics are typically only the starting point in today’s holistic college admissions process.

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