Why some Top Colleges no Longer Care about Sat Scores

Did you take the ACT or SAT before college? Chances are, your
answer is “Yes.” I am willing to bet that some readers did not get
accepted to their first choice colleges because their scores weren’t
considered “competitive” for admission.

When I was a high school student, I was in the Top 10% of my high
school class. I was the president of several clubs and always involved in
theater. My counselors constantly told me that I was going places, so
during my senior year, I applied to eight nationally ranked colleges
out-of-state. I only got admitted to two, and even between those, I didn’t
receive enough funding to attend. I called a few schools and asked about
the weaknesses in the applications I so tirelessly put together. They
told me, simply, “Your SAT scores weren’t considered competitive.” My
whole life, I have been infatuated with reading, writing, and
intellectual stimulation. However, the SAT made me feel worthless. I only made a
480 Math and 520 Verbal. I re-took the test four times, but my scores
did not move an inch. I thought, ‘How can colleges possibly determine my
ambition through this numbered score?’ Since I have been out of high
school, I have seen many people fall victim to an unfair applicant !
evaluation system in colleges.

Today, I will unveil just how much colleges depend on SAT scores to
admit students, how decreasing their importance really works, and the
benefits of decreasing the dependence of these scores. I will begin by
discussing the reasons why the SAT should be de-emphasized in admissions.

Students have been noticeably obsessing over the SAT for years because
colleges are depending on them more than ever. Vanderbilt University,
being the #18 in nationally ranked universities, is extremely dependent
on SAT scores to uphold their national rank. The same goes for the
University of North Carolina. Collegeboard.com, being the distributor for
the SAT, lists test scores as being in the “very important” category for
Vanderbilt and UNC when it comes to admission factors. A familiar
website, sparknotes.com, reports that over 80% of colleges nationwide depend
on the SAT in the admissions process. This is a disheartening figure
for those of us who don’t test well. In the Journal of Blacks in Higher
Education, volume 19 in 1998, there was a special section on the
Princeton Review’s opinion of the SAT, even back then. “It’s always been our
belief that the SAT is inherently unfair,” said a Princeton Review
spokesperson. Considering the Princeton Review is one of the biggest !
college-assistance agencies in education, when they disapprove, it’s
time for change.

I understand that some of you might be thinking, “Without the SAT, I
wouldn’t have as many scholarships.” This is a common objection, and in
addition to using the scores to admit students, colleges also use your
scores to award scholarships. Despite its negatives, the SAT is useful
in confirming the students’ strengths in case their high school was too
easy or their parents wrote their application essay. On
insidehighered.com, in an article from May 26 this year, College Board spokeswoman
Caren Scorpanos echoes this by saying, “To lose a national standard is a
detriment to the process,” she said. “Grade inflation makes it
impossible to compare students from different high schools,” she added. “An A
is not an A in every place.” However, this is not fair to students that
don’t test well. Scoring should not be an indication of college
performance. An article in the New York Times on August 31 this year explained
an account of a girl named Lien Le, who made a 400 on the SAT Ver!
bal section. But thanks to Bates College’s SAT-Optional policy, she
did not submit her scores to Batesand she still graduated magna cum laude
with a major in Biology. She subsequently went to Brown University
Medical School, an Ivy League institution. The need for the de-emphasis of
the SAT has been highlighted, but what about the solutions?

Colleges should implement other ways to determine an applicant’s
strengths suitable for admission. People have different types of
intelligence, according to Harvard University psychologist Howard Gardner. On the
University of Toledo’s website, it lists The Seven Types of
Intelligence, and they are:
1. Linguistic intelligence
2. Interpersonal intelligence, which is social skills
3. Intrapersonal intelligence, which is self-awareness
4. Visual intelligence
5. Body-physical intelligence, which is mind-body coordination
6. Musical intelligence
7. Logical-Mathematical intelligence, which is reasoning and analytical
ability

Also according to University of Toledo’s website, Howard Gardner wrote:
“Logical-mathematical intelligence enables us to perceive relationships
and connections and to use abstract, symbolic thought; sequential
reasoning skills; and inductive and deductive thinking patterns.” Because of
this commonly accepted psychological theory, the majorities of students
on campuses are just walking computers-in other words, people quite
good at reasoning on the SAT exam. Strengths should be embraced and
catered to with things like essays, physical activity evaluations, and
reliance on portfolios for those with musical or visual intelligence. Most
importantly, these strengths should be reflective of one’s major.

There’s hope ahead. Fair Test, an organization in Massachusetts
dedicated to spreading awareness about fair testing, lists over 719 colleges
and universities on their website, fairtest.org, that don’t require the
SAT or ACT in admissions. This is an inspiring number, considering
there are just over 3,000 colleges in the U.S. More than 1/4 of the
nationally ranked colleges on U.S. News & World Report college lists are
SAT-optional, enforcing that these are impressive colleges who don’t
necessarily follow the Ivy League formula for success. To name a few, places
such as George Mason University, Mt. Holyoke College, Middlebury,
Hamilton, Bates…and even University of Texas, a flagship university, has
made the SAT optional.

Joanne Creighton, president of Mount Holyoke College, a leading school
in the SAT-optional crusade, contributed to the Los Angeles Times in
their March 13 2006 issue and said: “This test falls short of predicting
academic or career potential, or a host of important aptitudes such as
curiosity, motivation, leadership, creativity, and social conscience.”
Mt. Holyoke completely makes the SAT optional, and according to
Creighton, the board at her college emphasizes high school or college
curriculum, personal essays, interviews, teacher recommendations, and other
measures to give a more holistic view of achievement and potential. In
fact, Mt. Holyoke leads a study funded by the Mellon Foundation that shows
a difference between academic performance between score submitters and
non-submitters. The ones who did not submit show a 1/10-point lead in
current college GPA over the submitters. This study was published in the
March 31 issue of the LA Times.

Bates College, conducting a 20 year-study of differences between their
submitters and non-submitters found the same point difference as Mount
Holyoke, as noted in their website, bates.edu. Also, Bates’ study found
that non-submitters were more likely to major in a creative field,
which reinforces Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences
discussed earlier. Now that thhe amazing and evidently effective solutions have
been addressed, now let’s examine the benefits of decreasing SAT
dependence.

We are truly a nation obsessed with test-taking, and this unhealthy,
close-minded approach needs to be severely decreased. What are the
benefits, besides the ones discussed previously? A de-emphasis on the SAT
could teach students to value an education for the sake of intellectual
growth instead of putting an emphasis on data and a high-paying job after
college. Comparatively, college admissions officers could become
conscious of integrating different kinds of intelligent students to form a
diverse learning environment. Musical people, visual people,
body-physical people, and intrapersonal people in the same setting would provide
wonders for a diverse classroom discussion. It will give more students
like Lien Le, the young lady we discussed earlier, a chance to satisfy
the intellectual hunger they truly have and excel possibly even more than
their test-taking classmates, even if they make a 400 on an SAT
section.

It will eliminate the vast amount of students who essentially pay for
their scores. Kids from more affluent families can afford special
programs or tutoring for the SAT or ACT, but under this SAT-Optional policy,
this mostly remains fair.
a) In another volume of the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education,
volume 29, they cite the emphasis on affluence, and it reads: “The SAT,
which was originally developed to move away from an educational
environment in which access was determined by affluence and family lineage rather
than academic merit, appears now to foster a system that facilitates
college admission for students with those characteristics.”

In conclusion, I hope there is an understanding as to why the SAT needs
to be de-emphasized in college admissions process, the alternatives to
admitting college students, and the benefits of decreasing the
dependence on these scores. If you know any high school students-perhaps in
your family-stuck in the torrential application process, please educate
them on the fierce, unhealthy competition of the SAT and the restraints
that colleges will place on them, and tell them about some
nationally-ranked colleges that don’t require the SAT. If you plan on transferring,
I encourage you to do the same. You are worth so much more than a
simple number, and let’s hope that more college admissions officers begin to
feel the same.


Works Cited:
Why the Princeton Review Opposes the SAT Requirement at Berkeley: A
Cynic’s View (in News and Views)
The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, No. 19. (Spring, 1998), p.
31.

The SAT Is Losing Favor among College Admissions Officers (in Special
Report: The SAT as a Major Roadblock to Black Students’ Aspirations to
Higher Education)
The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, No. 29. (Autumn, 2000), pp.
99-101.

Lewin, T (2006, August 31). Students’ paths to small colleges can
bypass SAT. The New York Times, p. A1.

(2004, October 1). 20 years of optional testing. Retrieved November 11,
2006, from Bates College Web site:
http://www.bates.edu/ip-optional-testing-20years.xml

University testing: Alternatives. Retrieved November 11, 2006, from The
Fair Test Organization Web site:
http://www.fairtest.org/univ/univalternatives.htm

Jaschik, S (2006, May 26). Momentum for going SAT-optional. Retrieved
November 11, 2006, from Inside
Higher Ed Web site:
http://www.insidehighered.com/layout/set/print/news/2006/05/26/sat

(2006). Why colleges use the SAT. Retrieved November 11, 2006, from
Spark Notes Web site:
http://www.sparknotes.com/testprep/books/sat/chapter1section3.html