Last week the LA Times asked the question: Will the UC schools drop their SAT requirement? It’s an interesting question and part of a growing movement within higher education and college admission to reevaluate whether or not standardized tests are quality predictors of student success. Though the initial reason for the SAT and ACT was to level the field so that students from rural public schools could be fairly compared to students from urban private schools, there is a lot of research that shows there is no direct link between test scores and how a student will do in college. What it has done though, is driven that divide even further as there are students who have the time and resources to prepare for the SAT and ACT with tutoring and other preparation, and those that do not.
I was fortunate enough to spend four years working at one of the schools mentioned in the linked LA Times article, Pitzer College, which piloted being test-optional the year before I arrived. From the admission officer perspective, it made us work a bit harder to ensure we looked at the student’s transcript and read essays even more closely to determine whether or not they would be a good fit. But we were a small school with an appropriate staff. Crafting a class was incredibly important to us.
The current challenge for the UC’s is that some campuses receive more than 100,000 applications each year.
At this moment at least, they don’t have a process in place to be able to fully read all of those files without using standardized tests. This does not mean that they won’t put one in place though. If the full goal of the UC system is to provide an education for all residents, then they need to be able to open their doors to a variety of students.
Going test-optional is a rapidly growing movement within higher education.
According to Fairtest.org , there are more than 1,000 four-year schools that are test-optional, meaning that they don’t require standardized tests for the majority of their applicants. It’s a big statement that 1,000 schools have put in the research and found that those tests are not good predictors of academic success in college. Think about the student who works hard in class but gets anxious during an exam. Or conversely, think about the student that tests well but has issues with their work ethic. This does not even account for the students who have the ability to spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on test prep while other students don’t have the time or resources to do the same. If education is to be the great social leveler, standardized testing seems to go against that.
The good thing is that the UCs are at least talking about this issue.
As the group of schools that receive the most applications in the nation they have a great deal of power. The fact that the UC system is even talking about changing their test requirements marks a major shift in philosophy. As we all look to better represent students and help them find balance in their life, this is a positive discussion. Many of us in college counseling eagerly await whatever decision the UC system comes to as it will have ramifications across college admission. Hopefully it allows our students to represent themselves as more than just a set of grades with a test score.