Jill Haley: Making an argument against college admissions tests
It’s been a rite of passage for as long as I can remember: taking the dreaded Scholastic Aptitude Test and/or American College Test to get into college. Given on a Saturday, students spent countless hours studying on top of everything else they need to do to get accepted into college. This includes extra-curricular activities, community service, taking Advanced Placement and college classes. It is no wonder our teens today are more stressed than ever before.
Why do we require students to take college admissions tests, especially when the high school grade point average is a better predictor of how well you will do in college?
Some colleges, most notably the most elite institutions, use it as a pre-screening tool. Meaning if a student does not have a certain score, their application may not make it to the second read, regardless of grades and extra-curriculars. Undoubtedly, this helped fuel the recent college cheating scandal by wealthy parents desperate to get their kids into one of the elite universities.
The “Varsity Blues” investigation revealed that parents were instructed by unethical college coaches to either bribe officials proctoring the test, or pay to have their kids fraudulently evaluated for a learning disability to get extra time on the test.
“This scandal may be the final straw that tips the balance” toward a test-optional admissions system, said Robert Schaeffer, the public education director of FairTest, a group that advocates for the elimination of the tests.
According to FairTest, over 1,000 colleges and universities in the United States are “test optional” and no longer require students to submit their Scholastic Aptitude Test or American College Test scores, or use them in a substantive way to determine admissions.
At test-optional colleges, students who did not submit either test score graduated from college at about the same rate as those who did.
Merit aid, financial aid based off student’s abilities and talents, almost always has a test score component in calculating who gets the money. So once again, a test with no predictive value to gauge college success, is used to make a decision that may affect a student’s ability to pay and attend college.
The Scholastic Aptitude Test is designed to measure how well students have learned high school reading and math concepts. For students who want to study sciences, such as biology, chemistry, or physics, there is not a science section on the test. In fact, the test itself is not at all representative of any material found in most college classrooms.
In 2018 over two million students shelled out about $65 to take the tests and more to send the scores to the colleges. This is on top of the application fees required to apply to college.
It’s no wonder that many educators, students and parents are calling for an end to college admissions tests in college admissions. Let’s reduce stress on high school students and focus on other parts of the application that are more predictive of their abilities such as their grade point average, college essay, extra curriculars and letters of recommendations.
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