The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

A Fair Path to College Admissions: Reviving the SAT

A Fair Path to College Admissions: Reviving the SAT

It was inevitable … as I’d hoped.

After 4 years of waiving their test policies, several top-schools have returned to standardized testing. Although controversial, this decision is the best for both the college and the students, despite the consternation it might cause potential applicants. 

Harvard’s return to standardized testing for the class of 2025, which was announced on April 4, helps maintain a holistic admissions process. 

Several elite universities implemented test-optional policies in June 2020, when the pandemic limited access to the testing centers. This means that there were four cycles of students who were able to apply without submitting test scores, but were welcome to. 

Many students took advantage of this policy and opted out of taking tests, but they likely overlooked the fact that scores can help their chances of being accepted.

Harvard economist Susan Dynarski discovered that when states have automatically administered the SAT and ACT to all students, colleges have discovered high-scoring kids who might otherwise have gone undetected and unenrolled. 

And even though test-optional policies were implemented to level the playing field, when COVID made accessing tests and test prep resources difficult, it had negative effects on applicants from lower-income households. 

When MIT reinstated its standardized testing mandate in 2022, it cited internal findings that testing requirements improved the admissions panel’s ability to identify “talented applicants” from disadvantaged backgrounds and predict academic success. 

Ultimately, standardized testing is one of the few marks colleges can depend on to be impartial.

Even though colleges evaluate GPA, there can still be a discrepancy from school to school. Some schools offer more APs, or weighted classes. 

Whereas the ACT or SAT is the exact same test, on the exact same day, at the exact same time no matter where you are in the country. 

But standardized testing is still far from an equitable measure of aptitude. It’s the start of the image, but not the entire picture. Upper-middle and upper-class students continue to have access to high-level internships and spare time to spend volunteering.

Other factors considered in a holistic admissions process, like essays, extracurriculars and teacher recommendations, tilt even more in favor of White and well-off students. Many of these students have access to dedicated, experienced college counselors, according to the New York Times

Opportunity is ultimately linked to wealth. Socioeconomic status plays a big role in a resume, and wealthy students’ applications can stand out with an unreal lineup of extracurriculars. 

Many Harvard applicants benefit from inordinate levels of privilege and wealth. In a post-affirmative action world, by requiring testing, Harvard is taking a step in the right direction.

Keeping the goal of a diverse campus in mind, Harvard remained test-optional in an attempt to welcome students of different races and economic statuses. After recent studies revealed past years’ test-optional and test-blind policies did not show a dramatic rise in diversity attributable to them, Harvard made the switch back.    

When the SAT was first introduced to the general public after World War II, wealthy, white students were no longer the only pool of students to pick from.

But using standardized testing as a measure of intelligence isn’t a perfect solution. Many critics of standardized testing note that many intelligent students can fail to perform well on them for various reasons.

Yet the harsh truth is: students who don’t meet the mark in high school would likely fall even further behind in a top-college with a highly competitive curriculum. Higher-level education is made up of a series of tests, whether it be finals, the MCAT or the bar exam, and students need to be able to perform. 

The ACT issued a report in 2005 to distinguish college-ready students from others. The main takeaway was not a possession of general comprehension skills but rather the ability to understand complex texts. It makes sense colleges would use a test that evaluates the skill to assess potential applicants.

Even if your test scores aren’t optimal, you can always opt to attend a different school and then transfer if your end goal is a top-college like Harvard.

Eschewing standardized tests doesn’t help the students or the college. Students are vetted based on what they can prove on paper, and test scores happen to be the most accessible and reliably predictive of all admissions criteria.

Standardized tests are a means for all students, regardless of their background and life experience. Most importantly, they provide information that is predictive of success in college and beyond.