The Personal Achievement Index part 1

In my previous post, I asked a simple question: how does UT make admissions decisions? They use the Academic and Personal Achievement Index.

The Personal Achievement Index is the technical term for what we imagine universities do when they review an application. They look at all of the factors that a student puts forward and assigns a subjective score recommending admission or not.

I previously linked an interesting document that explains the nuts and bolts of admissions decisions. I highly recommend taking a look at it.

Page 35 spells out the criteria for admission on a sliding scale from 1 to 6. The very best applicants receive a 6 and the least impressive receive a 1. About 70% of all applicants receive a 3 or 4, and less than 2% of all applicants will receive a 6.

Since 2013, UT removed separate scores for essays. Prior, each essay and the rest of the application received three different scores on the 1-6 scale for a total of 18 points. The average of these scores calculated the Personal Achievement Index. Now, only one score is given. The reviewer must assess the totality of an application and assign one score. Consequently, reviewers have less of a range of scores to give.

The goal for an applicant is to convince a reviewer to give them the highest score possible. There are such a thing as strong 5s or weak 3s, weak 6s or strong 4s (i.e. a score that is just barely a 3, or a really strong 5 but not quite a 6). Many scores are on the border and could tip from a 3 to a 4, or sometimes there isn’t enough for the reviewer to elevate a 3 to a 4. Applicants need to assume they are on the fence and straddle this margin.

What can you do to elevate your score? This is where a particularly compelling essay or recommendation letter can come into play. I have mentioned elsewhere that college admissions in the business of giving the benefit of the doubt and not punishing applicants. Since reviewers only have six options – the 1-6 scale -, you must argue persuasively why you deserve perhaps a little bit higher score than a first glance would grant.

In the next post, I will further discuss the Personal Achievement Index and the factors at play.

Kevin MartinProcess