In particular, do the SAT or ACT as an option or eliminating the use of standardized test scores altogether is meant to help diversify the student body.
When Harvard University announced such tests would be optional during the pandemic and then extended that policy until 2026, it meant qualified children fearful of their results could now apply, according to an education expert.
Smerconish argued that kids who spend all their time preparing for tests could learn an instrument instead. Although there is also the possibility that they go through TikTok.
Why MIT is bringing back testing
Schmill admits the SAT and ACT are imperfect tests, but argues that since they’re available in most communities, not requiring test scores “tends to raise socioeconomic barriers.” .
MIT is a special case, Schmill explained, because it demands so much math and science from every student. Testing helps demonstrate ability in these areas.
The school will always take a holistic approach to each applicant, looking at grades, test scores and life experience – although Schmill has also suggested there is some grade inflation. More on that later.
He also included this line to soothe stressed students (emphasis his): “You’re not your test scores, and for that matter, you’re not your MIT application either. “
MIT bucks the trend
The week before the hyper-selective MIT announced its decision, the huge California State University System – which almost 129,000 graduates each year—compared to MIT, which awards fewer than 4,000 degrees—said it would drop its SAT/ACT admission requirements.
UC data suggests testing contributes to diversity
But UC has the data that tells it that hated standardized tests are better than high school grades at predicting undergraduate student performance in school.
Henry Sanchez, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco and one of the report’s authors, said schools will find they need a tool like a test to differentiate between students.
“You can get rid of all these tests, but you don’t get rid of the structural bias in K-12 schools and that’s what affects student performance in higher education,” he said.
At Schmill’s point about the availability and access to alternative tests, the UC system has abandoned, for now, its own efforts to develop an alternative test.
I contacted the Office of the President of UC to inquire about MIT’s decision and UC’s experience with disregarding test scores. A spokesperson declined an in-depth interview because there is not enough data and told me it was too early to draw conclusions.
“It would also be difficult to separate trends in student achievement from the impact of the pandemic,” the spokesperson wrote in an email. “We continue to evaluate the impact of our no-test policy and our campuses are currently in the process of making offers of admission to a cohort of diverse, accomplished, and hard-working students for the fall 2022 academic term.”
What does all of this mean for college applicants?
I reached out to Mimi Doe, one of the co-founders of Top Tier Admissions, which admittedly caters to students who have the resources to pay extra help to apply for college.
But Doe said his advice to all college-going students, regardless of background, is to start early and take the SAT and ACT seriously.
Here are some interesting things I took away from our conversation.
The blind test is different from the optional test. DOE: Georgetown, for example, was an optional test – wink wink. Of their accepted students, only 7% did not submit grades.
Rating inflation is real. DOE: I’ve been doing this job for 20 years and I’m looking at high school student profiles… now you see half the class has A’s.
There are more candidates than ever. The first reason, she said, is that more common applications and less testing required has made it easier to apply in many schools. But passing the tests flooded the area.
DOE: The second reason is the optional score. Baby, it’s every man for himself. Every kid that’s #1 in their class, or #100 in their class out of 100, is going to apply to Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Dartmouth, all those dream schools, because the grades don’t have of importance. I need to try.
Colleges look for different things. DOE: They’re looking for kids who go beyond social justice issues and improve their own communities…they don’t want robots that only take 13 access points to get into college…that’s a qualitative and quantitative change in university admissions.
Students should not suffer from activities they think are attractive to colleges. DOE: Do what you love… We give kids permission to be authentic around their true interests, understand where to spend their time, and cut out the noise.
The tests are a disappointment. But they haven’t left for the top students yet. DOE: I believe (the SAT/ACT are) a colossal waste of a student’s time and energy. That said, it’s still a data point in admissions and it has been for the past two years during Covid. So it is a reality if you are aiming for very high level colleges.
This story has been updated with additional reaction.