Increasing selectivity at top state universities in a global marketplace

In 2016, ACT test scores continued their upward trend. To read about the newest numbers, click here.

September 2, 2015 -- A recent article from Columbus Business First caught our eye last week and was shared by many different people across social media…Ohio State ACT scores set another record – and are a far cry from a decade ago. The average ACT scores for incoming Ohio State freshmen was 28.9, a far cry from the 22.8 from 1995. These kind of increases in test scores are being seen in many colleges—not just Ohio State. So we paused for a moment and wondered…What is the driving force behind this increase in test scores at our colleges? Are our kids getting smarter?

Let’s see what we dug up. Our kids are not really getting smarter. The national average ACT composite score has essentially been unchanged hovering around 21 for the last 10 years.  In addition over the last five years, the percentage of high school graduates taking the ACT test has actually decreased.

Today’s Ohio students are competing in a global marketplace. The total number of enrolled students has seen a minor increase of 3% from 2009 to 2014. You can see from this chart while total enrollment stayed just about the same the number of out-of-state/international students has grown over 35%.

2014 2009 % Change
Ohio Residents 48,631 52,736 -8%
Non-Ohio Residents 16,237 10,481 +35%
Total 64,868 63,217 +3%
Source: OSU Statistical Summary 2009 and OSU Statistical Summary 2014

The number of international students alone has increased by 46%.

Today more students are considering college than in the past, and that increase means more people to compete with for students and more students to choose from for universities.  Ohio State saw 42,791 applicants in 2014 and only enrolled just over 7,000 of them. This application rate is a far cry from the 1980’s when our parents were basically assured a spot if they graduated from an Ohio high school.

The internet and access to information around the world has been a game changer. OSU like so many other colleges across the nation are branding and marketing machines. They have been a contender for the national championship in football nearly every year since 2000—a sure fire way to become a household name around the world. And the internet is there to spread the message.

If you want to ensure you have a good shot at admission at The Ohio State University in 2016 and beyond, you need to shoot for a 29 on the ACT. So what if you aren’t an above average test taker? Explore your options. You can find a good academic, social, and financial fit for you at 100s of wonderful institutions. Be realistic with your chances of being admitted to your top choice schools and have a Plan B and Plan C, AKA safety schools. 

Also, if going to Ohio State or similar school is really important to you, show them. Take advantage of their extensive network of branch campuses and partnerships with community colleges across the state. Get good grades as a freshmen and you have high probability of being admitted to main campus as a sophomore. 

These changes are not unique to Ohio State—top state universities are becoming more and more selective as the number of applicants rises, the information is available to a global audience, and good branding by name brand schools is perfected.