Grading Refinements for 2018

We’re pleased to introduce some refinements to our grading system for 2018 we’d like to tell you all about.

Historically, we’ve graded a ist based simply on the existence of a minimum number of likelies, targets and reaches in the list.  In other words, if a list contained at least 1 likely, 3 targets and 2 reaches, it earned an A regardless of whether there were 1 or 10 likelies or 2 or 15 reaches in the list.  We chose to implement the grading this way to make sure the essentials were in the list without imposing standards that worked for some but not for others.  

For 2018, we’ve introduced two changes to better reflect the times and incorporate some terific counselor feedback: a two likely minimum (instead of one), and grade deductions for lists that are too large.    

The new approach now contemplates both a minimum AND maximum number of likelies, targets and reaches in an ideal list.  In College Kickstart, these ranges are as follows:

  • 2-4 likelies
  • 3-5 targets
  • 2-6 reaches
  • 0 unlikelies

When a student's list falls within these ranges, the list will earn an A+.  When there is a shortfall, the list grade will be reduced, as always.  This time, however, when there is an overage, the list grade will also be reduced.  How much the list grade will be reduced will be based on the type of school (likely/target/reach/unlikely) and the extent to which there is overage.  

For example, let's look at the impact of extra reaches in a student's list:

  • 2 likelies, 3 targets, 2 reaches and 0 unlikelies will earn an A+ (in range)
  • 4 likelies, 5 targets, 6 reaches and 0 unlikelies will also earn an A+ (in range)
  • 4 likelies, 5 targets, 7 reaches and 0 unlikelies will earn an A (small deduction for the extra reach)
  • 4 likelies, 5 targets, 9 reaches and 0 unlikelies will earn an A- (larger deduction for the larger reach overage)
  • And so on.

The same approach follows for the other school categories, however the overage penalties will be harsher for unlikelies in the mix, and lighter for likelies and targets.  

When there are overages, the list check section in College Kickstart will also start to recommend “pruning” or “shedding” schools in the list.  This can be seen in the bolded text in the last paragraph, as well as in the FIX YOUR MIX section of the graphic on the right.


This approach allows us to cover a wide range of “ideal list” mixes to satisfy most needs while considering list size as part of the grading.  

As always, remember that the list grade is NOT an indicator of how competitive an applicant is to the institutions on their list, but rather an assessment of how well balanced a list is.  


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