Un-PC Gene Expression points to the latest SAT data (pdf) for the class of 2010. Highlights:

1) Colleges don’t care much about the Writing score, so ignore it for this discussion.

2) Although more women take the SAT then men, the standard deviation of the male scores is much larger (and the mean slightly higher) so men hold their own at Williams-level scores. For example, since the 91st percentile in Math for the 680,725 male test-takers is at 700, there are approximately 62,000 men with scores 700+. For women, the number is 31,000 (0.04 * 785,019). The Verbal (Critical Reading) scores have similar distributions, but, since scores are correlated, there are still probably many more men in the population than women scoring above, say, 1400. Williams does not need to lower admissions standards for men in order to maintain gender balance.

3) Asian Americans have higher scores in math and much higher standard deviations. Look at the percentile corresponding to a 700 for Math. It is 81! This means that there are 26,000 (0.19 * 138,303) Asian Americans with 700+ Math scores. Compare that number to
1,500 (0.01 * 150,643) for African Americans. The ratio of 26,000 to 1,500 is approximately 17:1. What is the ratio of Asian American to African American students at Williams? Approximately, 1:1.

Now the differences for verbal scores are much less. See here for more on Asian American admissions.

Does your Math SAT matter for getting into Williams? Of course. That is true no matter your race. But Williams is going to do whatever is necessary to ensure that no large US racial group is represented at significantly less than its proportion in the US population. If you are African American or Hispanic (or if you at least check the appropriate box), what matters is not your absolute SAT score but your score relative to applicants of the same race.

The point of this post is not to argue the merits of current Williams policies but to explain those policies, and the constraints which they confront.

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