I took the SAT in December 1969. The scores that I got were 719 Verbal and 772 Math. At that time the scores weren’t rounded to the nearest 10 points. They were given just as the nearest integer. It wasn’t until the early '70’s (I think) that the SAT scores began being rounded to the nearest 10 points. They do this because giving them as full-precision integers was making people think that the tests were that accurate, when actually you can expect someone’s scores to vary by 10 or 20 points each time they take the test.
Please note the following: I got 719 V, 772 M, for a total of 1491. I had a high school average of 3.63. Gore got 625 V, 730 M for a total of 1355. He had a high school average in the B- range, according to the news stories I’ve read. Let’s say that it was around 2.80. Bush had scores of 566 V, 640 M. According to the news stories I’ve read, he had a high school average in the C+ range. Let’s say it was around 2.30.
Despite that, Bush got admitted to Yale and Gore got admitted to Harvard. I got turned down at Yale. Furthermore, you can’t say that Harvard and Yale were taking them because they figured that otherwise they wouldn’t get any students from their high schools. Bush went to Andover and Gore went to St. Alban’s. Probably each of their graduating classes had several dozen people who went to Ivy League or comparable quality colleges. On the other hand, I went to a third-rate rural high school. My total score of 1491 was probably 150 points higher than anyone else before or since has ever gotten at my high school. Bush’s scores and grades normally wouldn’t have gotten anyone admitted to a top college, even someone who went to Andover. Only someone from a rich and powerful family gets into an elite college with such mediocre scores and grades. Gore’s scores and grades were marginal for someone going to a top college, even someone who went to St. Alban’s.
You could get the idea from college mailings that most elite colleges want to broaden their student bodies. In fact, most admissions people hate people who went to lousy high schools and will find any conceivable reason to reject applicants from such backgrounds (with one exception, which I will get to in a second). It’s clear to me that Yale looked at my SAT scores, teacher’s recommendations, and high school grades and said, "Wow, these are high scores. All these teacher’s recommendations are great too. But he went to a lousy high school, and he comes from a relatively poor family. We’ve got to find some other reason to reject him. Oh, look, he has less than perfect grades. There’s our reason to reject him.
However, there is one circumstance in which top colleges will take students from third-rate high schools. They like to recruit athletes from those kind of high schools. That way they can say that they do regularly take a few students from such schools, even though in fact they don’t take anybody except athletes from those schools.
One of my classmates got into Dartmouth. I suspect that the two of us were among the few people in the history of our high school to apply to an Ivy League school. His grade average was slightly lower than mine, perhaps about 3.45. His SAT scores were about 600 in each category. However, he was a very good football player in high school (and our high school team was highly rated), and the football coach at Dartmouth pushed the admissions people there to take him. In college, he turned out to not be a particularly good player, and he quit the team after his sophomore year. After scraping though to his bachelor’s degree, he came back to my high school and became a guidance counselor.
For those of you that are wondering why I didn’t play football, since that’s obviously the only way to get into a top college if you went to my high school, well, perhaps the fact that I’m 4’11" has something to do with my lack of interest in football.