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SATs Still Matter

“The SAT doesn’t matter on your applications,” say colleges like Bowdoin and Wake Forest, and they don’t require students to send those scores in with their applications.

This sounds very liberal and forward-looking, but it turns out that both these schools, plus others, buy those test results from the College Board. The highest scoring high school students therefore have an advantage over the poor wuss who thought he could skip out on the SAT.

My own Bard College, I’m happy to report, is test-optional and refrains from buying the test scores behind everyone’s back. Bard President Leon Botstein was actually interviewed for this Bloomberg article; he says the disingenuous schools “take a stance that looks principled but is strategic. They say ‘I’m going to show myself to be open,’ but in reality they’re completely buying into the definition of a good student that is guided by the test.”

Two pieces of advice to all applicants:  first, go ahead and take the stupid tests and do your level best to get a good score.  A great SAT score won’t hurt you at a “test-optional” school.  Second, don’t believe everything you hear.

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  • Anthony

    SAT as one metric of future college success ought to definitely be taken by all high school students able to and considering college, despite both test-optional and no requirement status of many schools; colleges still market and vie for recognition in competitive natural, normal and regular places.

  • Paul

    SAT tests, the single most accurate predictor of college success, have been demonized simply because egalitarianism-obsessed academics despise the message SAT scores send about racial differences. And every honest person knows that!

  • John Barker

    SAT’s and ACT’s have predictive validity.High schools vary widely in their grading practices; the tests work like an audit on a student’s intellectual ability. Do you really want students going to a college where they cannot compete with their peers or where they are bored and never challenged?

  • Merina Smith

    SAT and ACT tests are the only objective measure of student ability that colleges have. Grades say something, but in the end are not necessarily objective. Especially when it comes to writing, the SAT writing assessment is far more accurate than relying on college essays that have been heavily edited. There is nothing wrong with editing college essays, but they do not tell much about the writing ability of the student. I understand the skepticism about standardized tests. I believe that too many kids go to college and that our nation should develop strong alternate ways–apprenticeships and interships come to mind–to train young people for their careers. Nevertheless, I have to wonder if marginalizing these tests really makes sense. Here in California, the most important factor for college admissions becomes grades–subjective and hard to compare from school to school–and those heavily edited essays. Students have a particularly good shot at getting into the UCs if they can paint themselves as having overcome some challenge. Now I have as much sympathy as the next person for challenges overcome by young people, but the problem is that there is great incentive to exagerate or even manufacture challenges in order to gain admittance. Universities certainly do not have the resources to investigate these claims. And I have to ask, is this process of character destruction really the way to decide who is best suited to be the next great historian, novelist or productive scientist? I have my doubts.

  • andrewdb

    I wonder what the FTC has to say about such false advertising?

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