Should Schools Use SATs to Rank College Quality?

By Anonymous

Currently more than 80 percent of all four-year colleges and universities require SAT or ACT scores as a part or even majority of a students application for admission. The SAT and ACT tests were designed to provide information about a student to colleges and universities but were never meant to be the main measure of college quality. These scores are used as an objective means to compare students attending different high schools. (CNN.com)

Beliefs are that two students can have the exact same grade point average but could have completely different levels of knowledge depending on which schools they attended. It is thought that student taught in small disciplined private schools most often have a better education than students who attended large public schools in inner city areas. This is where the SAT comes in; it was implemented to serve as a consistent standard by which colleges measure all students against one another to help with the decision of choosing the best candidates for admission.  Also visit Student Enrollments: Salient Features for additional information regarding college attendance numbers and other trends in post-secondary education.

There are however many negatives that are associated with using standardize testing scores as such a large factor for college admissions. Most often it is the students from economically privileged backgrounds that score higher on test scores because of the advantage they have over other students. These students have the time and means to take SAT prep classes, receive private tutoring by teachers that specialize in standardize testing and take multiple tests for additional fees. For every student able to afford this costly process, there are many qualified students from under-served backgrounds who do not have the ability to excel due to lack of resources. For this reason alone, Universities and Colleges have started moving away from basing admission solely on test scores. Wake Forest is the first of the top 30 National Universities to remove test scores from their admission requirements as part of its efforts to increase social and ethnic diversity. (NewsObserver.com)

Smith College, the nation's largest undergraduate women's college, followed closely behind stating that they would like to draw students to their campus that would normally be underrepresented. Many Art Science and liberal schools have also joined in dropping testing scores agreeing with Wake Forest that tests favor wealthier students and believe they tend to have racial and socioeconomic biases.

In place of SAT or ACT scores, some Universities have decided to base admission decisions on high school grades, particularly grades in college preparatory courses, combined with written essays, extracurricular activities and evidence of character and talent. It is thought that without the stress and time spent on prepping for standardize tests, students can dedicate themselves to other activities that will show colleges what the applicants really find important in their lives and spotlight the students that really take an interest in community activities and other meaningful pastimes.

Even with the recent swing of schools disposing of the requirement of standardized test scores, many Universities disagree with the new trend and believe that SAT scores are a necessity in choosing the best applicants, especially in smaller, more competitive schools. These scores can guaranty the quality of student that many schools are looking for; especially schools that are known for high test scores or have rankings to uphold. 

There is not yet a large amount of statistics to say whether or not the success rates of non submitting SAT students are comparable to traditional students but there has been one study done at Bates College that has given an initial idea. In 1984 the Bates College faculty voted to have a test period for SAT optional admissions. A study was conducted on the students that entered Bates College in the years from 1985-1989 grouping them into students that submitted SAT scores and students that did not. In the studies, it was found that there was almost no difference in freshman grade point average and the students that did not submit SAT scores actually had a lower dropout rate than the non-submitter group. (FairTest.org)

As it stands, all Colleges and Universities have somewhat different views on the best process for choosing the most successful students and this is not likely going to change. So whether or not SAT scores are a factor in gaining entrance into the dream school, students need to focus on academics and preparing themselves for college studies regardless of SAT exams or not.  

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