Montana State University

Incoming MSU students’ test scores highest recorded in 25 years

October 6, 2014 -- MSU News Service

The test scores and grade point averages of Montana State University freshmen who enrolled full-time at MSU this fall are the highest recorded in 25 years. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.

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BOZEMAN – As Montana State University posts a record enrollment this fall, the test scores and grade point averages of its incoming students are the highest recorded in 25 years. 

The average SAT score for first-time freshmen who enrolled full-time at MSU this fall is 1720, while their average ACT score is 25.3. The average high school grade point average for the same group is 3.43. Those figures are the highest reported at MSU since 1990, which is the last year for which data is readily available.

In addition, in the fall of 2014, MSU enrolled 1,078 students who scored in the top 25 percent of the students from across the nation who took the ACT, up from 835 students in the fall of 2010.

“It’s very impressive that our students’ test scores and other academic indicators are the highest on record, even as the university grows,” said Martha Potvin, MSU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “That’s a very hard combination to achieve.”

MSU also continues to be the school of choice for Montana’s best and brightest students: This year, 67 percent of Montana high school seniors who received Montana University System Honor Scholarships chose to enroll at MSU, up from 63 percent just one year ago.

The scholarships provide free tuition for up to four years to top students from Montana high schools, based on their grade point averages and college entrance exam scores. Students can choose to use the scholarships at any one of the state's colleges, universities or two-year institutions. MSU regularly gets the largest share of the students, with 136 out of 202 scholarship recipients choosing MSU in 2014; 135 of 213 in 2013; and 127 of 206 in 2012. 

“We are pleased to have a large percentage of the Montana University System Honor Scholars enroll at MSU,” Potvin said. “To have the majority of the state’s best and brightest students choose MSU is a wonderful affirmation of the excellent education our students receive.”

Potvin and others credit the education MSU faculty offer as one reason the university has been able to attract a student body with rising academic performance indicators.

“MSU’s world-class faculty members provide outstanding education for our students, and this helps make MSU a very attractive option for prospective students,” Potvin said.

MSU also attracts top students to its Honors College.

“The average ACT of the 2014 freshman class in the Honors College is 29.5, and the  average grade point average is 3.84,” said Ilse-Mari Lee, dean of the Honors College. “These are students who elected to attend our university because of the quality of the undergraduate education available to them at MSU, guided by inspirational professors and surrounded by highly motivated peers, in a spectacular setting,” Lee said.

Students from across campus, including in MSU’s acclaimed Honors College, continue to post impressive achievements. The accomplishments highlight the university’s value, according to Ronda Russell, MSU director of admissions.

One example is MSU’s continuing success in producing Goldwater Scholars. In March, three MSU Honors College students received Goldwater Scholarships, the nation’s premier scholarship for undergraduates studying math, natural sciences and engineering. The scholarship provides each student up to $7,500 a year for tuition, fees, books, and room and board. MSU has now produced 61 Goldwater Scholars, keeping the university one of the nation's top institutions for number of recipients.

Other prestigious scholarships MSU students have received include the Rhodes, Marshall, Gates-Cambridge and Udall scholarships. In fact, in the last five years, MSU has produced two Rhodes Scholars, three Udall Scholars, one Marshall Scholar and one Gates-Cambridge Scholar, as well as 12 Goldwater Scholars.

Another important indication of the excellent education MSU students receive is the fact that a rising number of employers seek out MSU graduates, according to Carina Beck, director of MSU Career, Internship and Student Employment Services.

Beck said 183 employers have already signed up to recruit students at the university’s fall career fair, and more are expected to sign up in the remaining weeks before the event. The number is up by about 60 employers from just a few years ago and is very close to the university’s record of 187 employers, which was set before the recession.

“Employers are knocking on the door, wanting to hire MSU graduates,” Beck said. “They recognize that MSU graduates provide incredible value to their organizations.”

Contact: Tracy Ellig, executive director, University Communications, (406) 994-5607 or