What the Engineering School at Washington University in St. Louis Wants You to Know – And What It DOESN’T Want You To Know

They want you to know: that “…the average SAT verbal and math scores … for admitted undergraduate students…” in 2013 was Math 762, Verbal 722.  Here is the link to the Engineering School’s Spring 2013 issue of Engineering Momentum, a magazine that they publishe.


(Go to page 3, the “At A Glance” page and look at the bottom of the page.)

They don’t want you to know: the average SAT verbal and math scores of the students who actually enrolled.  (Did you notice the word “admitted” in the quote above? Probably not.) Why do I say “they don’t want you to know”?  I called the magazine and asked if they have the average scores for the enrolled students.  The answer was, “Yes, but we are not allowed to give that out.”  I can only guess what that data shows.  The engineering and computer science schools at Carnegie Mellon have a combined enrolled to admitted rate of about 27%.  It also has an average SAT Math and Verbal for enrolled students of around 775 and 720, respectively.  What seems more important to me is that CMU is one of the top computer and engineering schools in the country, whereas, Wash. U. is probably in the top 35, at best.  I can only guess that many engineering and computer science students apply to Wash. U. as a second choice and that the data for enrolled students is lower.  Of course, I don’t know for sure.

I am concerned about any school that gives out data, which is technically correct, but probably very misleading to the average reader.  I would not trust a banker that did that.

Finally, I am not really picking on Wash. U.  I just happen to be aware of their magazine.  I have very little doubt that, in this day of marketing universities, that this kind of thing is quit common.


  1. Inez Mond says:

    Thanks for pointing this out – it’s a clever marketing trick that I wasn’t aware of. In all fairness, though, I work for one of the Big Five tech firms, and we hire tons of people from Washington University (who all seem quite capable). Perhaps they’re not quite equal to CMU, but they are an excellent tech school.

    • Thank you for your comment. I especially appreciate your input about the students with whom you have experience. From my own experience teaching at Wash. U., I agree that, in general, the students are almost equal to those at CMU.

      My concern about Wash. U. (and other schools that pursue its same policies) is that, the school is being run too much like a business, trying to attract high quality consumers and marketing them and to them. This attitude becomes like a cancer that metastisizes throughout the institution. For example, the engineering school seems more interested in keeping ALL of these students happy and ALL of them in the engineering school. This concern of theirs leads to scenarios like the following.

      I taught differential equations based on MIT”s course (which can be found in their OpenCourseWare). The Wash. U. engineering school seemed to be very worried about “retention” (When sent a letter pointing out, among other things, that students who cheated on the homework didn’t do well on the test, the Dean of Academic Integrity responded that he didn’t want students to get discouraged.) The Math Dept. seemed to be most worried about losing the course, with its 200 students, to engineering. The chair of the Math Dept asked me to change the course to a “cookbook” course, the one he said they normally teach. The engineering school even sent a “complaint” from an upperclass tutor for my class. He said that he couldn’t do most of the MIT homework and he “made an A in the [cookbook] course and the next one.” My class laughed when I read this to them.

      The students performed outstandingly well. (You can read some of their comments in the “testimonials” page of this blog.) My concern is that too many of these capable students aren’t getting the education they need, given their abilities. I am afraid that they are being misled like the tutor who “complained”. I think the result does show up in their employment numbers. The only place I could find anything about this was on Linkedin. Here is what I found. Obviously, these are very back of the envelople estimates.

      7.7% of CMU’s tech grads from 2000-2010 work at Microsoft, Google, IBM, Amazon, Oracle, Intel or Apple. 1.3% of Wash. U.’s tech grads from those years work at those companies. I think with a good education, that number would be much higher.

      (By the way, the Chair did change the differential equations course back to the “cookbook” course the next semester. Here is a link to the first 2 hour test http://wumath.wustl.edu/files/math/217sppedExam1_Sols.pdf)

  2. SSPHDtofinance says:

    That link doesn’t work. But I searched on their site: https://wumath.wustl.edu/courses/syllabi

    Current syllabus is chapters 1-6 of D&B. Nothing wrong with that.

  3. Thanks for you comment, especially about the syllabus. It lead me to make a new post.

  4. Info on average students’ test scores who enrolled in engineering at WashU is located on the ASEE website here: http://profiles.asee.org/profiles/7262/screen/19 .
    Average SAT math for 2016 is 759, and average ACT composite score is 33 (Note the notation that the numbers are averages, even though denoted in 75th percentile column).
    For comparison CMU’s middle 50 for SAT math is 720-800, and for ACT composite score is shown on the ASEE info to be 32-35.

  5. The WashU test score averages for enrolled students is on the ASEE website here: http://profiles.asee.org/profiles/7262/screen/19
    The averages SAT math score for 2016 is 759. The average ACT composite score is 33. (Note the notation that the test scores are averages, even though denoted in the 75th percentile column).

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