50-50 College Listing

students representing college graduation ratesThis information is part of the information available in the DIY College Rankings College Search Spreadsheet. The 50-50 College Listing contains four-year colleges that accept at least 49 percent of their applicants and has at least a 49 percent four-year graduation rate for private colleges or at least a 49 percent five-year graduation rate for public universities. The reason I use 49 instead of 50 is to capture the schools that might have qualified last year or would qualify next year but don’t this year.


So what good is this data? Well, if you don’t see any value in college graduation rates, you can just stop reading right here. I have found that nothing I say is going to change your mind and I’m really not interested in debating its value or going into the psychology of why people ignore college graduation rates.

Still with me?

Okay then. I use college graduation rates as a rough-repeat rough-proxy for college success. There are all kinds of limitations in using this number. The one you should be most aware of is that colleges with large engineering departments (relative to the rest of the school) are likely to have a low four-year graduation rate but much higher five-year graduation rate. This is because it often just takes students longer to complete the demanding engineering load but also because many engineering student co-op which extends their program to five years.

And yes, I do believe that an individual can get a great education at any school if she puts in the effort. However, I also believe that it’s easier to get a good education and graduate if you are in an environment with other people (for whatever the reason-money, ethnicity, family situation) that are likely to graduate. The graduation rate is not the final say so in evaluating a college’s effectiveness.

There are colleges out there that should be considered to be doing an extraordinary job even if they only graduate 35% of their students. This is because the students they accept are often unprepared for college or have other issues that are likely to keep them from graduating. This is the basis of the Washington Monthly’s and US News expected graduation rate. If a school has an expected graduation rate of 15% and graduates 35%, it’s doing something right.

But it’s not going to be included in my 50-50 listing. A student may ultimately end up at such a school for very good reasons but with over 400 50-50 institutions, there is no reason to start the college search process with such schools.

And this brings us to the other 50 aspect of the list, who would find it useful. A 50% admissions rate means that a student doesn’t have to have stellar qualifications to be admitted. In other words, there’s a reasonable chance of B or B+ students of being admitted.

I did a very unscientific check to see how true this might be by looking the colleges with the lowest admission rates on the list. I looked up the percentage of enrolled freshman who had a high school gpa of 3.75 or better. Basically, I wanted to see how many were admitted that weren’t at least B+/A- students. Below are the eight colleges I checked. Almost 40 percent of the students at Elon have below a 3.75 average. This doesn’t mean a student with a B gpa has a great chance of being admitted, but he does have a reasonable chance. In fact, acceptance rate may not be the best indicator of the average gpa of the freshman class. I did another unscientific check of looking at colleges on the list with the highest 75% SAT Critical Reading score. As you can see, these colleges had higher admission rates than the first eight colleges I checked. However, all but three had a higher percentage of students with a gpa of 3.75 or better. This isn’t great news for the B student. But again, it does mean the possibility of admission even at the “extreme” of the SAT spectrum. And ultimately, it’s easier to raise your SAT score in the fall of your senior year than your gpa.

There’s also the flip side to these numbers. You can find concentrations of good students (by superficial measures of SAT and gpa) in plenty of schools. Over half the freshman at St. Olaf had a gpa of 3.75 or better and 75% had an SAT CR score of 600 or better. Would this be a brilliant group of students? Maybe not. But it would mean attending class with a group of students who are serious about their academics.

The 50-50 list is about options. Most students start their college search knowing only a few regional colleges and probably the nationally ranked ones that no one gets into. And unfortunately, many never expand their list which means they are missing out on some great opportunities. To get a link to this list, just enter your email by clicking HERE. I promise not to sell your email to third parties. The PDF is free.


The 50-50 list is about options. Most students start their college search knowing only a few regional colleges and probably the nationally ranked ones that no one gets into
  1. […] You might want to take a look at what’s really required to get into a college or university. A lot of the “information” swirling around the internet and high schools is based on trying to gain admission to super-competitive Ivy League universities (which is only about a dozen small universities in the entire country) or the “top” university in your area. These colleges and universities get so many applicants that they reject even valedictorians and students with perfect ACT and SAT scores. That’s why everyone’s so scared that they might not “get into college.” For some reason, very few parents and counselors are talking about the actual qualifications of students that get into the hundreds of universities and colleges across the country that are not Ivy League. If you don’t have any idea which college or university your student is interested in, a good place to start is by looking at 50-50 colleges in your state at DIY College Rankings. […]

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