How Do Splitter Candidates Work in the College Admissions Process?

Splitter candidates are those that either have a high GPA and low SAT/ACT or vice versa. Often, these types of candidates get left unnoticed or apply to the wrong schools where their strengths are not highlighted.

Sometimes there is a story behind these types of candidates and often that needs to be explained. If you are a splitter candidate you need to tell the admissions officer your full story to give your application a boost and put you on a more level playing field.  In this article, we will present some ways in which students can identify themselves as splitters, how they can improve, and what it means for college admissions.

Who is a splitter candidate?

Splitter is a relative term. That means that relatively – your SAT/ACT is higher than your unweighted GPA or vice versa. There are two elements to a splitter candidate – test scores and class scores. This is the basic version of a splitter candidate.

Your unweighted GPA is out of 4.0 and we always use this metric at Empowerly because it allows us to compare applicants across all variables. We take into the student’s difficulty ratio – the ratio of total AP classes divided by the total offered (or IB equivalent) to fully understand where a student stands.

We can usually identify a splitter candidate starting in junior year. Once a student takes the SAT/ACT and has some scores, we will be able to start judging the general correlation. Often we recommend students take the SAT/ACT up to 3 times as often students do not get the score they desire or can achieve on the first attempt.

So if you are a junior and are worried that you may be a splitter candidate, the first step is to see how much time you have to retake the SAT/ACT.

Bad Test Taker

The first type of splitter candidate is bad at taking tests but performs well in their classes. They usually work very hard, prepare and study, and often do better in subjects where preparation vs. intuition or extrapolation help.

Sometimes these candidates have not taken the tests enough. For example, we recommend a core group of SAT II subject tests, but often students will take them once and then senior year comes and we do not have the opportunity to retake the test.

Other times, they are weak at a particular subject within the SAT or ACT and that brings down their overall score. In these cases, we tutor the student in that particular subject.

There are several other scenarios that can occur for a bad test taker splitter candidate, and often they are solved by retaking the test, focusing on specific areas, or breaking down the task into subparts.

Good Test Taker

The other type of splitter candidate for college admissions is the low GPA and high test taker. Often these students are viewed as “lazy” because they have the mental horsepower to do well on tests but systematically have lower grades.

In these cases, we work to motivate the students to help them stay engaged in classes and top of school work. If school is too easy, we often recommend students to increase their AP/IB class count or to take classes outside of school.

Sometimes, we have students who are particular gifted in a set of subjects and very weak in others. They are able to compensate during test day, but it shows over the long term in their classes. In these cases, we tutor the student to help them understand the underlying concepts and get motivated to understand the importance of the subject.

How to Position Yourself

In college admissions, students write a series of short and long-form essays to demonstrate who they are, why they are applying to a set of colleges, and why they should be accepted. In these analyses, colleges often look at the student grades as the bedrock.

Sending an additional supplemental essay or explaining it in the section the Common Application has set for these types of situations is what we always do with splitter candidates. Tell the admissions committee head on what your weakness is and how you are improving on it.

Admissions readers are also human and can understand.

The other important part for splitter candidates is a realistic college list loaded with a few safety schools that are definitive. You can use read more about choosing safety schools in a college list in this post.

Questions? Let us know!