Despite this, I felt I did not need to worry too much about the entire college application process. After all, I was a stellar high school student and very involved in extra-curricular activities. And, what could be so difficult about filling out the Common App and answering a few essay questions?
Of course, this was only half the battle.
What remained was something that mattered more than anything else, more than grades, volunteer work, clubs and essays. In other words, more than the hard work, perseverance, sleepless nights, sacrifice, diligence and dedication I put in throughout my high school career.
I am talking about the SAT.
With college admissions tests like the SAT in place, the journey to college is undervalued. It seems the test results overshadow that journey, and are of more importance.
The College Board’s recent announcement that it is changing the test’s format starting in 2016 by eliminating “obscure” vocabulary words, making the essay optional and adding critical thinking components throughout the exam will not change the fact that the test is a biased tool in the college admissions process.
The SAT is in trouble, why else would it suddenly change the test? Last year, more students took the ACT and over 800 four-year colleges and universities are now “test-score optional.” Only 20 percent of classroom teachers see college admission tests as fair and a study titled “Defining Promise: Optional Standardized Testing Policies in American College and University Admissions,” proved that high school grades are a better predictor of college success than standardized test scores. Why keep the test?
In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, Randolf Arguelles, an admissions officer at the University of California at Berkeley, argues that “the SAT or ACT is the only data point that is an apples-to-apples comparison” because “an A in AP Chemistry at one school can be easier or harder to attain than at another, serving as president of the Speech and Debate Club might entail different responsibilities from one school to the next and college admissions officers can’t fairly compare essays given the varying levels of parental or other editorial assistance”. If this is the case, and the SAT is the standard measure admissions offices have, then they are most likely choosing the better test takers, those who memorized more words and those who could afford to spend money on tutors and rigorous prep courses.
If the College Board thought it could discourage hardcore preparation and decrease stress with the new format, then they should think again. Students will continue to prepare as much as possible for the exam, since they do not know what kinds of questions to expect. Test prep companies like the Princeton Review and Kaplan will be sure to overhaul their courses and programs in time for the new SAT so they can profit off of frantic parents and students.
I commend the College Board’s efforts in trying to improve their ailing exam, but in the end the SAT still inhibits students from gaining entry into their top college choices. Unfortunately, admissions offices rely too heavily on SAT scores, and end up giving a seat to the lucky test taker with higher scores versus the student who has excelled in the classroom.
I am sure that one day standardized admissions exams will be gotten rid of once and for all, and students will finally be admitted to their dream schools based on merit and not on their score on a tedious and stressful three hour exam. Until then, students will just have to keep filling in the bubbles and hope that their answers will lead to a great score — because that is what matters most.
Andrew Santis, GSB ’16, is a business administration major from Flushing, N.Y.