A Data Dive Into Iowa State University
Iowa State University got on my radar this week. Katharine Johnson Suski, Executive Director of Admissions, wrote a kind and thoughtful letter to prospective students that went viral.
This large university is trying to be as fair as possible to help prospective students. The deposit deadline has been extended to August 24th, the first day of the Fall, 2020 term.
Offered a scholarship? The university will hold it for you until that day. Iowa State will also hold new student scholarships until Spring 2021 for any student who is unable to start in the fall.
Is there a change in your financial situation, but you have already submitted the FAFSA? Iowa State has a special conditions application, so you can provide an update.
Iowa State competes in a tough market against the University of Iowa and the Big Ten schools in neighboring states. Thirty-eight percent of the current freshman class came from outside the state. Out of 28,000 undergraduates, over 4,200 came from Illinois, nearly 3,000 arrived from Minnesota and over 600 were from Wisconsin. No surprise; the flagship state schools in those states have very competitive admissions. Iowa State can be a “second flagship” for the students who cannot get into these programs at home.
Last year Iowa State received over 18,000 applications for 5,600 seats in the current freshman class. It had to accept nearly 17,000 to fill the class. But the average GPA of the freshman class has risen since 2013. The average high school GPA was a 3.7 for the freshmen who arrived this fall. Among those who took the SAT, the middle 50 percent scored between 1100 and 1340. For those who took the ACT, the range was between 22 and 28; the average was a 25.
But careful when considering a large school with a test score range this wide. Chances are that the average scores for the business, engineering and health care programs were closer to the 75th percentile, likely higher. I could not find this information for Iowa State. But I have seen these profiles for the freshman classes at Illinois and Rutgers. They make it clear that admissions are going to be harder if you want to study business, engineering or nursing.
Last cycle, instead of using a wait list, Iowa State took deposits from accepted students well into the summer. A senior could wait until the later half of their senior year to take standardized tests, apply, and get a decision in two days. It was, and still is, wise to apply and be accepted earlier if you were interested in the University Honors Program. That required a separate application due April 1st. The Honors Program sets no minimum requirements for grades or test scores. About five percent of Iowa State’s undergraduates are in this program.
As more schools have moved to test-optional admissions, Iowa State make a fair case to remain test-mandatory. Their data collection shows that the higher a student’s ACT score, the more likely s/he would return for their sophomore year. High scorers were also more likely to graduate on time. Each year since 2013 Over 90 percent of the freshmen who entered with ACT Composite score of 27 or higher returned as sophomores. Over 55 percent of those freshmen graduated on time.
Overall, Iowa State’s freshman retention rates have gotten better since 2007, rising from 83 to 88 percent. Four-year grads rate rose, too. They went from 38 percent for the freshmen who arrived in 2007 to 49 percent for the class that entered in 2015. Compared to the University of Iowa, Iowa State is doing a better job at retaining its freshmen. But the University of Iowa graduated over half of each freshman class from 2009 through 2015.
Iowa State might not be selective as Illinois or Wisconsin. But it has a lot to offer.
- It’s one of only 63 members of the Association of American Universities, respected for the research produced by the faculty.
- Iowa State founded the first school of veterinary medicine in the United States, and is a great option for pre-vet students.
- The university has over 90 academic learning communities. Iowa State’s selection of majors, minors and certificates is impressive. There are highly ranked departments, but the university should update the information.
- The school is a very good value for the money. The estimated total cost of attendance for Iowa residents is less that $22,000. For non-residents it’s just over $37,000. New Jersey or Pennsylvania residents would pay about the same to attend their home state universities. Iowa State is a great value for a degree in architecture, which takes five years to finish.
- The university has a huge alumni base in LinkedIn.com. You’ll find a watch party in virtually any major city, especially when the Cyclones play in-state rival Iowa in basketball, football or wrestling. The largest groups outside of Iowa will be in Minneapolis, Chicago and Denver. The university posts a helpful map with alumni by state. Iowa State alumni have lots of company in California, Colorado and Texas as well as the neighboring Midwestern states.
- Visually, the campus and community remind me of Penn State-University Park. Iowa State feels less crowded and less intimidating than Penn State with fewer students around. Town-gown relations and events are managed through a Campustown Action Association.
It’s hard to ask a large state school to be as accommodating as Iowa State has been in these difficult times. I hope that their admissions office gets the best class possible.
Listen to my talk, What Exactly Is a Good College? hosted by test-prep experts Amy Seeley and Mike Bergin on Tests And The Rest!