A word about comparing stats...


CGA Admissions Partner
5-Year Member
Mar 5, 2013
Some food for thought.

This time of year it seems we see so many posts from people asking about stats, comparing stats with those who have received appointments, and those who have been rejected.

Listen, I get it. This is normal. But I would caution anyone who does this that it can lead to confusion and resentment. Just look back in history on the boards for whatever academy and you will see heartbreaking posts from parents and applicants alike wondering how they were passed up when they had such stellar stats. Or how someone else was offered an Appointment over them with stats that didn't match up. Folks, this happens every year, and I would say to try and avoid asking others for their stats, or comparing your stats to theirs.

From an Admissions perspective, there is so much more that goes into offering an Appointment to someone than just stats. The needs of the XXXXX Academy is an example. Of course there are recruited athletes, and those parameters are very different for NCAA DIII schools vs. DI schools. Perhaps an Academy has trumpet players that are graduating and needs freshman trumpet players for the band. There would be preference there you may not have considered. Perhaps there is an applicant from a underrepresented geographical area, or underrepresented minority that may receive some preference.

Then there are the hidden parts of the application that you may never know about. Perhaps a recommender that you listed didn't write you a stellar recommendation like you thought they would. Perhaps you scored a solid 30 ACT composite score, but your math score was a 25, but it's the 30 that you choose to list when you talk about your stats.

I say all this as a word of caution both to those who think their stats are so good that they couldn't possibly get rejected, and also to those who think their stats just may not be good enough. I remember a few years ago when our son applied for USNA and USCGA (long before I was an Admissions Partner). I read all of those that posted their stats, thinking he didn't stand a chance. His stats were good, but not as good as some I was reading that had gotten rejected in years prior. As it turned out, he received LOA's to both academies as well as the NROTC scholarship, and of course we were all very humbled. What exactly it was about his application that made him stand out, I will never fully understand.

So, keep in mind, whether an Appointment comes or doesn't come has much more to do with many other factors, than just with the stats you see posted on these boards. So much more goes into it through time honored processes and procedures very few understand completely. The various Admissions Boards to the best they can to pick the most diverse, well-rounded, qualified candidates that meet the needs of the academy they serve. Do they ever miss the mark sometimes and pass someone that should have gotten in? Sure. Likewise, they allow some in from time to time that don't succeed. It's not a perfect process.

Keep that in mind when you ask someone to share their stats, or choose to make your own stats public. You are never comparing "apples to apples", no matter how you look at it.

Good luck to all of you that are still waiting.
Grevar has very eloquently stated what I often feel when I see these posts about stats. I going to quote in particular what he said here as well:

I remember a few years ago when our son applied for USNA and USCGA (long before I was an Admissions Partner). I read all of those that posted their stats, thinking he didn't stand a chance. His stats were good, but not as good as some I was reading that had gotten rejected in years prior. .

We felt the same way about my son. He had outstanding athletics, but wasn't recruited as an athlete. He had good, but not top grades. His SATs were average. I think (personal opinion) that he had two good recommendations. One was from a retired military officer who had known DS for years, as his son and mine were friend. His recommendation, which I later saw, was glowing, and included, among other things, something along the lines of "this is someone who I am proud to have as my son's friend". The other was from the Cadet for a Day cadet when he wrote up his report. DS didn't see it, but the cadet told him "you're the kind of guy who makes it". And he has. He graduates in 56 days (but whose counting?).
.....On the other hand:

What I have liked about USCGA as compared to the other academies, and something that USCGA rightfully boasts, is that it is the only one which has no nomination requirement, and thus the politics of that process are removed, leaving USCGA with the luxury of appointing cadets based on merit alone.

At the other academies (my kid is at USMA) some kids are admitted with only the minimum criteria because the Congressional district only has one or a few candidates, while other districts have literally hundreds of much more high achieving and qualified applicants, but only one slot. The academies are therefore compelled in many instances to take a less qualified candidate over hundreds of less qualified or deserving applicants.

Don't get me wrong; all of the a academies give preference to "underrepresented candidates", and athletes. I will avoid being hammered by the PC police by saying only one thing. The USCGA has the opportunity to distinguish itself by making itself truely an institution which makes such decisions based purely on the quality of the applicant, and merit of the situation. I realize that some of the politics come from outside the academy itself, but some are within the discretion of the institution.

Don't get me wrong; I am not suggesting that it should be a decision based on test scores and other numbers alone. But it could be far more objective than it is. BTW, I am more critical of the other academies in this regard than I seem with USCGA. And my son didn't apply to USCGA, and did receive offers of appointment to the three academies he did apply to, so my comments are not at all coming from some jaded parent.

USCGA is a tremendous school, and I encouraged my son, and others to pursue it. Just suggesting that in this regard USCGA is in a position to be as objective as possible with it's admissions. I can absolutely understand when folks question some of the decisions made in terms of who gets an appointment and who doesn't.
I think more to grevar's point is the exercise of comparing objective stats is often times a very short-sided view of understanding the admissions process at any service academy. The small size of the USCGA compounds this issue. There are factors which influence admissions decisions that can contribute to the confusion felt by a rejection...many of them not in the control of the candidates themselves.

1. Academy admissions is first and foremost an accessions tool for the Coast Guard. All military personnel systems have a notoriously short-sighted view when it comes to managing accessions. Some of those factors include the budget system, changing political environments, changing mission sets, turnover of the command structure, etc..
2. The admissions team must construct an entire class - not just admit based on academic merit and/or objective stats.. It is much like constructing a music ensemble - all the pieces must fit together and compliment each other. Too much of one skillset at the expense of another will result in less of an experience for all the players.
3. There are aspects of a candidates file which do not lend themselves to an objective measure nor comparison from candidate to candidate. Essays, recommendations, phone conversations with AOs, interview results, level of interest items (visits, interaction with admissions partners,etc.), timeliness, perseverance, and other things which would capture the "tone" of a candidates file to an admissions team.

Like any complicated system - there are most certainly flaws. I am sure that the admissions process forces the rejection of some great candidates who would surely make excellent contributions as Coast Guard officers. The flaws can be minimized by the balance of additional opportunities which rejected candidates can pursue to achieve their goal of either gaining admission or some day serving.
I have told my DD that life is not fair at times. This is one of those times. It was well said that they are putting together a class. And it makes great sense they way they go about it.