Where do Standardized Tests fit into College Applications?

Pete Lagrotteria '17, Contributor

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As seniors prepare to submit applications, and juniors begin their college process, both continue to stress about their standardized test scores. The element of an application that schools say “does not hold much weight,” nor “defines a student.” But do colleges really mean what they say? If they do not matter, why do so many schools require not only the ACT or SAT, but individual subject tests as well?

The SAT became widely used for college admission in 1938. Over the course of its 78-year history, it has maintained a similar style to the original, only adjusting for changing information. As our society continues to transform, and new learning styles are implemented, wouldn’t it seem that the SAT has become obsolete? Outdated? Many students believe it is, and some universities have begun to stray away from the standardized test requirement on applications.

The idea of basing a student’s acceptance on their performance on one four-hour exam seems unfair, if not foolish. Colleges and Universities say they look at the whole student and the tests are only one aspect of their evaluation, but all students are aware of the real role they play. If you were to walk into a test center on any given Sunday, you will find students on Adderall, drinking energy drinks, and dreaming of ways to cheat the system; anything to get the perfect score. Standardized tests have lost their initial intention, and have become the obstacle of many students’ college hopes. Students that have worked hard for four consecutive years are not able to apply to the schools they have dreamed of attending because they scored a 29 on the ACT instead of a 31.

Besides football games and movies, it’s nearly impossible to hold a teenager’s attention for four straight hours, especially when someone asks them to read passages and answer questions. The system is broken. Many students do not test well, and have become disheartened by a standard they are incapable of reaching. Colleges are missing out on capable and impressive students, who would potentially be a better fit than the student who got a perfect score on the SAT. What students should be evaluated on is their character and effort in the classroom, how they have performed over the past four years and established themselves as a student not a test taker. Our society has created an illusion that only the top scorers will be successful at the top universities.

Nationally ranked at #27, Wake Forest is a test-optional university. Although they do not require the submission of standardized test, they have maintained a nation ranking within the top thirty. During an information session at Wake Forest, the admissions director explained how they do not see students as a number. Test scores had blinded the admissions team and not allowed them to evaluate applicants on the basis of merit, and involvement within their communities. Beginning in 2009, Wake Forest’s test optional policy has resulted in an increase in the number of applicants, while maintaining an impressive national ranking.

The system is broken and outdated. I by no means have the answer as to how to fix it, but I have seen first-hand its rejection of qualified young applicants. While the implementation of the new SAT, it will be interesting to see if it indeed is a more accurate way of evaluating students, or simply a reconstruction of the old model. As college applications are submitted and decisions are received, one can only hope the test created in 1938 is not the deciding factor in acceptance.


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Where do Standardized Tests fit into College Applications?