With the start of another hectic and work-filled school year, the preparation for college application perfection continues to intensify. As students are all too aware, one of the core pillars of a successful application is the submission of a standardized test—either the ACT or the SAT. The heavy emphasis on these scores by college admissions urges students to shell out thousands of dollars on tutors, spend countless hours reading passages written in old English and to make multiple choice strategies muscle memory. Even though many students invest heavily in preparing for these exams, studying does not necessarily translate to success.
Some students naturally possess the skills needed to stay concentrated throughout the test, and only some are able to decipher tricky question phrasing in a short amount of time. Unlike classes at school where a large part of a grade reflects effort, be it through in-class participation or coming to tests well-prepared, standardized testing prioritizes skills that are arbitrary and based primarily on untaught aptitude.
Colleges claim to value work ethic, creativity and intellectual curiosity yet stress the importance of a test which can only measure a robotic assortment of abilities, which seems to be a fundamental contradiction in their admissions messages. In order to achieve a high score on these tests, students must have a strong understanding of their structure, meaning that students without access to strong test resources are at a massive disadvantage. While some can afford to work with a private tutor, others rely on books from local libraries, online resources or take the test with little or no preparation at all.
Having access to a standardized testing expert can give students with money an immense advantage in learning strategy, which consequently makes the entire admissions process slanted toward them. According to The Washington Post, students from families earning more than $200,000 a year averaged a score of 1,714 on the 2,400 point model of the SAT, while students from families earning under $20,000 a year averaged 1,326.
While it may seem unrealistic to eliminate such an established pillar, many schools have chosen to evaluate students without the arbitrary tests. Institutions such as Wesleyan University, George Washington University, Bowdoin College, Wake Forest University and University of Chicago have decided to make score submission optional, placing an emphasis on other aspects of the application such as essays and interviews.
Those who are seeking a spot at these schools are thus enabled to craft their applications based on what portrays them best.
They can choose whether or not they want to send in their standardized test score, AP scores or subject test scores along with their transcript, which puts more power in their hands and makes sure they put their best self forward during the application process.
This means that universities will focus on more human aspects of their applicants instead of turning them into statistics, which creates a more capable and diverse student body.
For now, standardized testing is the sun that college-ready high school students revolve around, but with a commitment toward finding better and more innovative ways to test the aptitude of applicants, a world without the stress of the test is possible and not too far off.