As Michael Gary, The Enrollment Management Association Trustee and Dean of Admission at Phillips Exeter Academy, describes: "If students take the test, they are serious shoppers" (Memberanda, Fall 2011). In these charts, we’ve examined over five years of SSAT-related data to share the characteristics and habits of this large independent-school applicant pool.
#1 They are increasingly international.
Unique test-taker volume over time does indicate that a growing number of individual students are taking the SSAT, thus joining the overall pool. As you can see, the number of individual students taking the SSAT has been slowly rebounding since the 2006-07 peak and subsequent economic recession. The number of testers in 2011-12 was greater than the number of testers in 2006-07 by 3,446 students. However, the majority of these testers are international students, particularly in Asia.
#2 More are taking the SSAT a second time.
The vast majority of students take the SSAT just one time (82%). Yet the number of students who take the SSAT more than once slowly increased between 2003 and 2012. In the 2003-04 testing year, 87% of students took the test once, as compared to 82% in 2011-12. Conversely, the percentage of students taking the test two times saw a slow but steady increase from 11% in 2004 to 15% in 2012. This change in test-taking behavior is likely attributable to the rise of test prep services and increased parental anxiety surrounding the independent school admission process. The Enrollment Management Association does not limit the number of times a student might take the standard test.
#3 They are casting a wider net.
With the decline of the economy since 2008, domestic students may have been seeking more options for financial aid in the last few years, thus sending more score reports to more schools. Since 2007- 2008, there has been a steady decline in the number of students sending 1-2 score reports, and an increase in the number sending 3-5 and 6-8 score reports. The number of domestic students sending 3-5 score reports is up 6% for 2012-2013.
In comparison, the number of international students sending 1-2 score reports is down 4% in 2011-2012, while the number of international students sending 3-5, 6-8, and 9-10 reports has remained relatively consistent. However, the international student base continues to cast the widest net, with the number of students sending more than 10 reports up 5% over last year.
#4 Their financial pressures persist.
The number of SSAT Fee Waivers used by applicants to member schools peaked in 2009 at 7,279. A steep decline of 15% occurred between 2010 and 2011 but promptly picked up again for 2012. There were 1,091 more fee waivers used in 2012 than in 2008. With the 2012-13 test season still underway, 2013’s number is sure to increase.
#5 They want a standardized application process.
The Enrollment Management Association developed the Standard Application Online (SAO) to simplify the admission process for families. The SAO allows families to use one standardized form to apply to the over 500 schools which accept it. Use is up 447% in the last five years. More than 18,000 applications were submitted through February 2013. The total number of unique applicants has climbed rapidly – up 77% since 2008. The average individual applicant sends 3.2 applications in 2013, as opposed to 1.6 applications in 2008.