According to USA Today, Harvard Graduate School concluded that college admissions should focus both on ethical engagement and intellectual engagement recently its “Turning the Tide” report from their Making Caring Common project. 50 colleges have endorsed this report and a change to the college admissions seems possible. Some recommended changes in the report include focusing on meaningful causes and community service activities that students engage in, and on contributions made at home, with less emphasis on standardized tests, such as the SAT. Some high school students support this movement for change, as high schooler Justin Weiss told USA Today. “Should someone with more money and a better tutor than me be able to attend the college of their choice while I’m at a disadvantage?” Weiss asks. “College admissions should be based on your ability to better the world — not to outperform someone on a test, and I hope that colleges will take this report to heart and level the playing field for us all.”
Throughout their high school career, students learn and develop countless skills that help them in both their future careers, and in some aspects of life as a whole. For those who take high school opportunities to their full advantage, many high schools teach students skills such as communication, time management, public speaking and overall personal responsibility. However, for all these years of classes, extracurricular activities, community service hours and intense stress, what really determines a high school student’s readiness for college?
According to hundreds of schools in the United States, it boils down to one thing: a test. Today, the SAT is considered the primary gauge for students’ ability to succeed in college. However this can clearly be seen as untrue. The SAT has no correlation between the GPA and graduation rate of college students, fails to measure skills that indicate better success in college, is mastered by memorization over intellect and favors the rich over the poor.
The SAT originates from a standardized test that was created to measure the aptitude, or natural ability, of high school students. This test was called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, and it was created in 1926. This test was given to approximately 8,000 students, all of whom were given problems involving math, language, classification, number series, analogies, logical inference and many other academic topics. Over time, this test has developed into the SAT that we know today. This test was designed to measure the readiness of students for college, and now it plays a primary role in college admission. However, how much does this test really measure?
Well, according to a study done in 2014, SAT scores don’t mean very much. The study, “Defining Promise: Optional Standardized Testing Policies in American College and University Admissions,” was released in 2014 by Principal Investigator William C. Hiss. In this study, nearly 123,000 students from 33 different colleges were compared according to their SAT score, GPA and graduation rate. According to the study, “the differences between submitters and non-submitters are five one-hundredths of a GPA point, and six-tenths of one percent in graduation rates.” In other words, the correlation between success in college and the SAT scores of students is trivial at best. The SAT really doesn’t measure anything except a student’s ability to sit in one place for 3 hours and 45 minutes while answering misleading questions.
In fact, the SAT is not a measure of intelligence at all. Instead, it is a mere indication of how well someone takes the SAT. That’s about it. To “study” for these tests, students often repeatedly take practice tests over and over again, until they gradually get a higher score. To get better scores, students memorize the “tricks” of the SAT test questions. Take the POLAHS SAT Prep class, for example. In class, students are given a binder full of tips and shortcuts to memorize in order to find answers more effectively. They spend time analyzing the unique format of the SAT and its test questions. In the end, success on the SAT only measures how well a student can take the SAT itself, not how well a student may do in college courses or how many college-related skills a student may have. Although students at POLAHS greatly benefit from the SAT Prep class, it doesn’t discount the overall ineffectiveness of the SAT test as a whole.
Many people assume that “the higher the income, the higher the scores” is a myth, but sadly, it is not. Test takers from wealthier families are better prepared for these tests. With their money, they have more access to resources, whether they spend it on private tutors, better teachers, or even the test itself. Here at POLAHS, we are grateful to have a free SAT Prep class. However, other students do not have this unique privilege POLAHS students have. What many student at our school don’t realize is that if each students were to pay for the same class outside of POLAHS, it would amount to approximately $3,000 per student, an expense many students cannot afford. Lower income students cannot afford to gain access to these resources that would boost their scores.
Even though students can pay for or take a SAT Prep class or buy a prep book, most students can’t obtain a lifetime of wealth. Students from higher income families grow up in an environment where there is a more advanced level of vocabulary at home and they get a higher quality of education at schools in the area they live in. As they have grown, they were exposed to more complex concepts and information that they have learned from over time. This privileged lifestyle is not something anyone can buy, making it something most students can’t rely on in helping their success. However, the information on the SAT favors this background because the test includes higher vocabulary and concepts, making it biased against students who haven’t had this advantage in their life.
Not only does the SAT fail to measure aptitude or intellect as it originally set out to, it also ignores certain skills that students have that may have more of an impact on their overall ability to succeed in both life and in college. For example, students who are skilled in an instrument, are talented speakers, are effective at time management or even just have a job often have abilities that are unquantifiable by a standardized test such as the SAT. Some skills are often essential to success, but totally ignored by the SAT.
Although the SAT provides a straightforward and swift way of determining candidates for admission to colleges, the negatives far out weigh the benefit. The SAT is ineffective, biased and fails to truly measure the intellect of students. All in all, the SAT should be made optional or removed entirely from the college admissions process. It provides little benefit, save for efficiency, and it only adds on to the stress and payments piled onto students who hope to attend college.
–Aldo Andrade, Mika Verner, Ashley Anderson, Ashley Ardaiz, Jaelene Galaz, Austin Labador, Vania Patino, Darlene Radell, Ximena Ruiz, Malia Street and Jesus Zamora