Editor’s Note: This post was updated on February 19, 2015, to reflect the most recent data….
It is difficult to compare public honors colleges and programs, on the one hand, with elite private institutions on the other. Data for honors colleges and programs is a difficult to obtain sub-set of university-wide data. We do have a large amount of honors-specific data based on our 2014 survey and analysis of 50 leading programs, but the degree of overlap with that data and the data for the private elites is limited.
The information below may help exceptionable high school students to decide what their alternatives might be if the elite private school of their choice either rejects them or, in providing only need-based aid, still leaves middle-income families with some big bills to pay. Many public honors programs have non-need-based aid for exceptional students, and the stats below show that, regarding selectivity, honors programs can provide top students with a strong cohort of equally bright peers, often as bright as the students attending top private schools.
What we have is this: the mean two-part SAT scores for the 18 most selective private elite universities, along with the six-year grad rates for those same schools; and the same data for the 18 most selective public honors colleges and programs. We have separated the 36 schools into four sections based on their mean SAT scores. The mean test scores are based on (1) the average of the 25th and 75th percentile scores for the private schools; a(2) the actual mean SAT scores for 15 of the honors programs; and (3) sound statistical estimates of the mean SAT scores and grad rates for the Echols Scholars Program at UVA, the L&S Honors Program at Michigan, and the Campus Honors Program at the University of Illinois. For Washington University, Vanderbilt, and Notre Dame we have adjusted the ACT mean scores to an SAT score.
The mean SAT scores range from a high of 1515 to a low of 1410. The highest mean two-SAT scores are for the University of Chicago and the Echols Scholars Program at UVA.
What does this illustrate? For one thing, most people do not realize how selective many public honors programs are, and for another, it is interesting to see if the high selectivity of all these schools and programs results in similar graduation rates.
Below are the 36 schools listed in the order of their mean SAT scores, regardless of private or public status. The next figure shows the six-year grad rate. Please understand that this listing varies considerably from our ratings of honors colleges and honors programs. This list is based on selectivity alone, which plays no part in our ratings.
|University||SAT Range||6-Yr Grad Rate|
|Virginia Echols Scholars||95|
|Illinois Campus Honors Program||93|
|Rutgers SAS Honors||96|
|Georgia Honors Program||92|
|Clemson Calhoun Honors||1431-1453||95|
|Michigan L&S Honors||96|
|UNC Chapel Hill Honors Carolina||97|
|Minnesota Honors Program||92|
|South Carolina Honors College||92|
|UT Austin Plan II Honors||1410-1423||94|
|Kansas Honors Program||97|
|Ohio State Honors Program||91|
|Auburn Honors College||86|
|Oklahoma Honors College||91|
|Tennessee Chancellor’s Honors||92|
|Washington Honors Program||94|
|Connecticut Honors Program||92|
|Penn State Schreyer Honors College||94|