Opinion: Colleges shouldn’t define success through a number


Gianna Somrak

Students from lower-income families do not have access to needed SAT preparation materials.

By Gianna Somrak, Mayfield High School

The student rushes in through the front door, completely forgetting to have the usual ‘how was your day, honey?’ conversation with his/her waiting parent. The student dashes to their bedroom, leaps to the nearby computer and powers the device on to seek the answer he/she has been awaiting for months. Every hour spent studying, every completed practice test, every penny his/her parents squeezed out of their paycheck all for this moment.

The student navigates through College Board and clicks on the newest notification: SAT score. A frown invades his/her face at the number that blares across the screen, the low number almost mocking. All that hard work and the student won’t even be able to send this to the college he/she desires.

Standardized test scores such as those of the SAT and ACT should not be a factor that determines a student’s admission into a college.

Test scores are not an accurate representation of a student’s readiness and preparation for college-life. Various studies such as those conducted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling have found that enrollment by minorities has increased with more installations of test-optional policies.

Theresa H. Hernandez of Huffington Post, discussed the report in her article arguing the abolishment of test scores in college admission. She said, “The study found that schools that do not require the SAT/ACT saw an increased enrollment of underrepresented students of color relative to comparable institutions that require a test score and that admitted students who did not submit scores were just as likely to graduate as admitted students who did.”

Not only are they inaccurate, but standardized tests perpetuate inequality and exclude certain social classes and groups.

Recently, a college admissions scandal broke out. The scheme involved dozens of wealthy parents such as actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, who bribed test administrators to change and cheat their children’s tests in order to earn them admission into elite colleges such as Stanford University and the University of California.

According to a recent CNN article, parents are outraged by the scandal, especially by the denial of spots for students that are less-privileged and harder-working.

The creator of the SAT, Charles Brigham, was found to have purposely designed the test to limit black students in achieving a higher education. Research shows that testing agencies still practice similar discriminating tactics in order to permit white students to excel and other minorities to fall behind.

Test scores also permit colleges to be selective in their choice of certain students, favoring white upper and middle-class students and discluding racial minorities, women and lower-income individuals.

Beyond the scores, the process in actually taking and preparing for the tests are selective. Due to financial barriers such as the exam fee and preparation costs, students from low-income families are unable to perform as well as students from wealthier families. Administrators from the College Board have found a positive correlation between test scores and higher family income with wealthier students overall performing better than low-income students.

Some of these students cannot even pay the price to send their earned scores to the colleges they wish to apply to!

English teacher Kari Beery has mixed feelings on the subject of standardized testing. While she does believe the SAT/ACT provides a general picture for the skills of a students in some variables, she doesn’t believe it grants colleges the only chance to judge them. She said, “There are some variables that the consisted tests could provide, but that’s not the only way to measure anyone. But when you think about that measure, it’s not fair.”

Lower class students may even decide not to apply to their desired college. Some remain hopeless in attaining a high enough score due to their overall lack of resources. Even if they decide to take the test more than once, most are unable to afford or even make time to study due to other personal obligations.

There are factors other than test scores that promote a student’s talent and performance. Work in extracurriculars, personal statements and other grades represent the primary strengths of individual students. Research shows that a students high school grade point average (GPA) is actually a better indicator of college success and readiness than standardized tests.

Senior Bailey Ross wants colleges to consider other student efforts such as extracurriculars, workload and skill sets. She said, “I think there are so many better ways to show college readiness like such as through different things your involved in, your course load, are you working, what kind of social skills, what kind of study skills and things like that.”

Beery thinks there are resources that could more promote a student’s strength over the variables that could affect their test scores. “You don’t know what other factors are in [taking the test] as far as: Was it a bad day? Were they sick? Were they this, were they that? I think a body of work would be more representational of the whole student,” she said.

Lily Barajas, a political science student in her first year of college, told the Daily Bruin that scores are not an indicator of the diligence and hard-work a student showcases. “A number is not (a representation) of who you are. Your story is,” she said.

More and more colleges have stopped requiring SAT and ACT scores since the beginning of 2018. For example, the University of Chicago has made the process of sending test scores optional and provided more opportunities in financial aid for low-income students.

Creighton University in Omaha has also installed a test-optional policy with the goal of “expanding upon strategic initiatives and diversity and inclusion efforts.”

Ross appreciates how colleges are beginning to change their mindset on use of test scores. “I think that it’s really good that we see schools straying away like from having to submit it. I like the whole test-optional application process,” she said.

Success should not be based on tests that are inaccurate, unequal and overall limit a student’s potential in showcasing their skills as a learner and creator. Every person learns differently, and instead of limiting diversity, colleges should work to increase it.

This story was originally published on The Paw Print on April 9, 2019.