Crestmuth University is a school that prides itself for its early adoption of a policy that abandons the use of the SAT and ACT for college admissions decisions. The school claims that this policy, which has substituted a more holistic admissions process, has created a student body that is better equivalent to students’ knowledge levels and achievements. Now, it selects students with the highest grade point averages from their respective schools, who represent a diversity of extracurricular involvement and social backgrounds, who are compassionate leaders (even in high school) who don’t waste their times studying for tests and instead do things that help *people*, and who will certainly be the leaders of a future generation.
It sounds great, right? I know a lot of students, just from this description, will want to register and apply for Crestmuth immediately…and who can blame them? Their goal is noble and their immediate actions to dropping the SAT nobler.
Is this school only a dream? A quick google search will reveal that the school, indeed, is a dream…but what about their policies? Is this hypothetical situation something tenable for colleges today?
What is the purpose of the SAT and other admissions tests now? First, standardized tests…quite simply…standardize the playing field for students. They allow students to be met on a more equal footing despite their different high school experiences. Secondly, standardized tests (debatably) predict success in college. So, how well does Crestmuth’s policy works on these accounts?
Ah, its GPA requirement – Crestmuth’s policy of exchanging GPA for test scores has at least one big pitfall. Crestmuth’s admissions counselors probably aren’t naive enough to rate students based on the raw highness of a GPA. A student whose schools weight courses would have an ultimately unfair advantage over a student, so this would immediately be unfair to a broad level of students.
Fortunately, though, most schools *already* do not trust the weighted aspect of most high school grade point averages…so most schools, and probably Crestmuth as well, will reweight back down to a 4.0 scale or whatever’s manageable. This gets out of one pitfall and into another, because Crestmuth has no way to identify the level of grade inflation that one school has over another…One school’s 4.0 might be much more easily achieved than another’s, so rating a 4.0 as greater than a 3.9 isn’t necessarily a sure bet.
Most colleges, still, try to deflect even this. They take into consideration, perhaps, the rigor of courses taken. So, colleges are definitely likely to look at a student who has a lower grade point average (but who has taken more rigorous courses, like AP or honors courses) as a stronger candidate than one who has a higher GPA but less challenging courses.
But…you probably guessed it…another pitfall awaits! Now, Crestmuth is unfairly regarding students with the resources to take more advanced courses above and beyond those who don’t have these resources.
A seemingly ideal policy is to look at how students rank within their classes. If a student excels in his school environment (by ranking within the top 10% of his class, for example,) then the hope is that this student is significantly motivated regardless of his peers. Certainly, this has a pitfall (isn’t a student who ranks lower than top 10% of a rigorous school more able than someone who is valedictorian of an unchallenging school?) but the emphasis is more placed on having a diverse class of students.
But does this final policy end up answering the *second* duty of the SAT: does it predict collegiate success? Some schools say that a student’s willingness to work indeed is the most important factor in his chances at succeeding in college (so a student who scores in the top 10% is definitely motivated, at the very least, to stay above the water of the university level education.) However, going back to the less challenging school: how can a student who was top 10% or even valedictorian of a school whose math department only teaches up to geometry ever expect to stay afloat in programs that expect students to start in calculus? Now, there’s burden on the school to provide remedial classes, so the measure of a student’s ability to succeed in college really becomes something more of a measure of a college’s willingness to accommodate those who are behind.
As for extracurricular activities, Crestmuth seems to be moving in a good direction, at least under holistic pretenses. An SAT score can only talk about reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic, and little much about anything else…but are extracurricular activities a holy grail?
Once again, this policy creates a divide between haves and have nots. All of a sudden, Crestmuth realizes that there are amazing rowers around the country, amazing fencers perhaps, amazing creatures of every trade and every kind. It now has a class anyone can ooh and ah at…but at the expense of students who don’t have rowing teams or fencing salles.
Sadly, extracurriculars predict more a penchant for getting involved in extracurriculars than success in college.
Finding students who actually learn and lead in school…instead of preparing for tests all the time…seems to be a good prospect in favor of Crestmuth. After all, the SAT and similar tests can be “studied to”…which gives an unfair advantage to those who have the resources to hire others who can teach them the test (and strongly questions the SAT’s claim that it measures natural aptitude which should neither require nor benefit from studying.)
Of course, this is just one reason – and a narrow one – in favor of Crestmuth’s hypothetical policy. In reality, SATs aren’t even used, even now, as the *only* measure by which a student is admitted or rejected to a school. Schools already do look holistically at GPA, extracurricular involvement, community service, along with SAT and ACT as different legs of the a student’s “chair” of achievement. So, why flat out reject the SAT?
Would you rather have 3 or 4 legs to a chair, or just 2 or 3? Beware of sitting on what could be merely a ladder or a stick.