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Return of the Tests

So here we are.

Four years after the pandemic started, striding past the understandable run to test optional policies because sites were impossible to run during COVID...we now see a return to SAT/ACT requirements led by some of the most prestigious colleges in the country.

An obvious eye will turn to the UC school system, which has always mimed the Ivy Leagues in many ways. But I suspect the UCs would need a massive turnover at the top in order for required testing to return to the Golden State. Don't be fooled. The UCs didn't get rid of the tests out of the goodness of their hearts. They wanted to avoid an incoming lawsuit that used testing data to show the UCs had been rejecting higher-scoring applicants for their own reasons.

To get this out of the way: clearly it is better for our business that more colleges require the SAT/ACT. We aren't running away from that fact. But since no one batted an eye when things were going the other way, we are fine proceeding when the wind is at our backs.

My immediate thoughts.

Colleges are releasing information from internal studies showing that SAT/ACT scores are quite helpful in determining who is more likely to succeed at the college level.

This doesn't sound surprising.

In addition to the academic content in both exams, there is also the reality of dedicating one's self to improving one's scores. This is an oft-forgotten component that speaks to a student's dedication, planning, and drive to increase his/her test scores. Those skills translate very well to a college setting.

Also, at least one school admitted to rejecting students who would OTHERWISE HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED IF THEY TURNED IN THEIR SCORES.


The test optional policy compelled certain applicants to hide scores they deemed too low based on anecdotal data, only to learn their decision sealed their rejection letters. This is the antithesis of what any "good" admissions process should be.

I don't suppose we will ever settle the debate surrounding these tests, which is fine. A healthy discourse will keep all parties on their toes and theoretically keep improving the system.

But to take a quick stab at it.

What of the idea that wealthier students who can afford test prep have a distinct advantage over students who don't have the means?

Show me ANY component of college admissions that doesn't directly benefit from parents with deep pockets.

Private high schools certainly aren't free or cheap.

Grade inflation? Rampant.

Educators today are working with an entire generation of students who learned Geometry over one week of Zoom. Geometry class grades? A pluses. Geometry skills? Non-existent.

Academic tutors are even more prevalent.

Extracurriculars cost plenty of money, particularly sports. Private coaches? All over the place. There is even an opportunity cost if you want to point out that volunteering is free. A student who needs to work to contribute to the household income or must stay home to babysit siblings loses the chance to do something they're passionate about.

High powered SAT/ACT tutors are demonized plenty.

Perhaps we just stay quiet about the ubiquitous private college counseling industry (no offense meant towards my beloved colleagues). But I know they're aware we're all cut from the same cloth.

Admissions essays, supposed to be the windows to the students' souls, are gamed easily when ANYONE ELSE writes it. This, dear reader, happens a lot, unfortunately.

And once you get past all of it, testing remains one of the truer meritocracies in this entire thing.

Whatever prep, whatever dollars, whatever hedge funds the parents manage, it is still the student who is expected to perform on the spot. The scoring is objective and the results are sanitized. At the very least, we are all taking the same, imperfect tests.

And I'm not sure why that somehow became the worst thing about applying to college.


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