CIALFO scattergrams: beneficial or detrimental?

Writer: Lila W.

Visual: Jasmine R.

Editor: Amelie L.

It’s nearly college preparation season for our fellow juniors. Numerous juniors are striving to boost their GPAs, standardized testing scores, and extracurriculars as an attempt to enhance their college applications. With counselors advising 11th graders to start researching and finding their ‘best fit’ college, many have referred to CIALFO as their main tool of navigation. 

CIALFO is a college guidance platform that allows students to manage and track their applications. It is recommended by many counselors for the platform’s most striking service: the college admissions scattergrams they provide for students. The scattergrams allow students to understand their relative chances of college acceptance based on their GPA and standardized testing scores (SAT and ACT). However, it can be argued that the admissions scattergrams are detrimental to the student’s well being and may lead to a negative perception towards the college admission process. In this article, we will be examining the different insights and thoughts on these controversial scattergrams. 

One disadvantage of the scattergrams is that they can potentially crush a student’s dreams and provoke anxiety within themself. They cause students to be discouraged as they reveal the reality of the situation: that they are buried under the masses of red crosses and they don’t stand a chance near the average lines for acceptance. 

However, scattergrams don’t show the whole picture of the college admissions process. They don’t show the extent of past applicants’ extracurriculars or the quality of their essay writing skills. They don’t reveal legacy statuses, athletic recruits, as well as college donors, all notable factors accounted for in the admission process. With this in mind, students must realize that scattergrams don’t illustrate the whole picture of things, and other factors still come to play. 

Meanwhile, scattergrams are a great way to help build a balanced college list. When applying, counselors have repeatedly advised students to apply to a range of schools, selecting a good combination of schools that are categorized into reach, target, and safety. ISM counselor Ms. Berry states that “CIALFO scattergrams are a helpful tool in seeing how you compare academically to those who have applied to the institution you’re looking at. Institutions like to accept students that they know will succeed. It’s important to remember that it’s not all about the name of the school you’re going to, it should be about the fit and how well you’ll thrive in the environment.”

It must be emphasized that scattergrams focus on trends rather than absolute values, thus their data does reflect a certain truth to the college admissions process. GPA and standardized testing scores are still undeniably important. In fact, it’s  commonly thought that such numbers help “get you in the door.” It determines whether a student gets into the pool of considered candidates. Therefore,  scattergrams are perceived as a way to focus on specific areas for improvement, whether it be your SAT/ACT score or GPA.  

In conclusion, scattergrams are only one aspect to be examined during the college admissions process and students should not obsess over them as colleges view all applications holistically.