About the Ivy League's Academic Index

How to calculate it; what it means

If you’re a high school football player receiving letters from Ivy League football programs, then you should know what the Ivy League’s Academic Index (A.I.) is, and how to calculate it. Ivy League recruiters typically will not explain this.

The information presented here was drawn from conversations with coaches and from various books available at most public libraries. Two important books on this subject are: "Playing the Game," by Chris Lincoln (Nomad Press); and "A is for Admission" by Michele A. Hernandez (Warner Books).

The Academic Index: What it is

The Academic Index is a measure that Ivy League coaches use to determine a player's recruitability. Approximately two-thirds of it is based on your standardized test score (SAT or ACT); the other third is based on your class rank (or GPA, if your school does not provide class rank).

The original purpose of the Academic Index was to provide Ivy League schools with a standardized method for admitting athletes (Ivy League schools, however, now use the Academic Index for non-athletes, too). The important point to understand is that all Ivy League sports programs must abide by rules surrounding the index. Therefore, if your Academic Index is below the minimum level, you must raise it, or you cannot be admitted.

Also, be aware that Ivy League schools may send recruiting letters to you before they have calculated your index. According to the book, "Playing the Game," Ivy football programs typically start their recruiting processes by sending mass mailings to all of the 13,000-plus high schools in the U.S. They then follow up with hundreds or even thousands of letters to potential recruits across the country. Thus, recruiting letters by themselves are not a guarantee that you meet a certain school's minimum A.I. requirements.

Lastly, be aware that the index shown here is the same rough approximation used by Ivy League coaches. The real Academic Index used by Ivy admissions offices involves the use of the SAT 2 exam, which most athletes have not taken. Therefore, coaches use the following approximation to get a rough idea of your eligibility:

Academic Index = (SAT score /10) + (CRS)

To use the formula, follow these three steps:

Step 1. If you’ve taken the SAT, divide your cumulative score by 10. A 1300, for example, becomes a 130. This is your test score quotient.

Step 1-A. If you have taken the ACT rather than the SAT, go to Table 1 (see the link below) and convert your ACT score to an SAT. Then divide it by 10. This is your test score quotient.

Step 2. Get your Converted Rank Score (CRS) from Table 2 (see the links below). Make sure you use the table that’s right for the size of your graduating class.

Step 3. Add the CRS to the test score quotient. The sum of the two numbers is your Academic Index.

The Academic Index: What it means

There’s only one universal truth about the Academic Index: If you have an A.I. below 171, you cannot be admitted to an Ivy League school as an athlete. The Ivy League is unforgiving on this point, no matter how good the athlete.

For those at or above 171, the meaning of the Academic Index varies from school to school.

To precisely determine an athlete’s recruitability, the Ivy League segments all A.I.s above 171 into four “bands.” Bands at each school are defined by the statistical make-up of the school's current freshman class. In each school, therefore, the numbers associated with the bands differ. The universal rules that define the bands are as follows (if you're an Ivy League recruit, bear with this description; you should be able to understand it):

High band: This bands starts with the school's mean Academic Index, and ranges down to one standard deviation below the mean. ("Standard deviation" is defined as measure of the range of variation within a group. Typically, 68% of all data points fall within one standard deviation; 95% fall within two. In the case of the Ivy League Academic Index, one standard deviation reportedly varies from 12-16 points per school.)

Medium band: Goes from one standard deviation to two standard deviations below the mean.

Low band: Goes from two standard deviations to two-and-a-half standard deviations below the mean.

Low-Low band: Ranges from two-and-a-half standard deviations down to the minimum A.I. of 171.

Using this system, an Ivy League school with a mean Academic Index of 210 and a standard deviation of 14 would have its bands defined as follows:

High: 197-210
Med: 183-196
Low: 176-182
Low-Low: 171-175

Ivy League schools rarely, if ever, publish their mean A.I.s. It is assumed, however, that Harvard, Yale, and Princeton (in that order) have the three highest mean figures, probably at or around 220. According to the book, "Playing the Game," Dartmouth usually falls fourth at approximately 212, followed (in order) by Columbia, Pennsylvania, Brown, and Cornell.

Under the rules of the system, no school can admit more than 30 football players per year. Moreover, the schools must specifically show that prescribed numbers of recruited players fall into the bands as follows:

High band: 8 players
Med. band: 13 players
Low band: 7 players
Low-Low: 2 players

In general, however, the following is also true about the meaning of your A.I.:

1. The lower your band, the better you must be as an athlete.

2. Students who fall in the “low-low” band need to be exceptional athletes (all-state caliber players who are being recruited by Michigan or Ohio State, for example).

3. Students with A.I.s above 220 stand a better chance of being recruited, and needn’t be All-State caliber players. In fact, some Ivies have been known to pad their teams’ Academic Indices by recruiting football players with 1550 SAT scores and virtually no chance of ever seeing game action.

4. In football, offensive linemen are often recruited in the medium and high bands. Low-low bands are most often reserved for impact players: quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers.

5. Ivy admissions are tough, even for recruited athletes. All Ivy League schools start with a pool of more than a thousand players, and then whittle that pool down to 30. A typical “low-low,” therefore, will be in the top quarter of his high school class, with a 27 on the ACT (1220 SAT), and will be a first-team all-stater or even a high school All-American caliber player. A typical “high” might still be an all-conference caliber player with a 33+ ACT (1460+ SAT) and a top 5% ranking.

Finally, remember that the formula presented here is a rough approximation used by coaches. Ivy admissions officers typically want prospective students to take the SAT 2 exam before calculating their “real” Academic Index.

Links for determining your Academic Index