The University of Chicago has recently made public certain changes to their admissions process that will affect the class of 2023. Though several small liberal arts colleges have already done so, University of Chicago has become the first research university to not require SAT/ACT scores for students’ applications. This decision has been made in part to better support applicants who come from low-income families, or are minorities; by doing so, the institute hopes to give applicants equal opportunity for an education. The unnecessary stress placed upon SAT/ACT scores in the college admissions process has led to a competitive environment, in which students are now improving their test-taking skills rather than learning new material. Other colleges should consider following University of Chicago’s decision to get rid of the emphasis on SAT/ACT requirements, in order to make the admissions process fairer to those who are at a financial disadvantage.
Standardized testing was initially implemented to enable colleges to assess applicants unbiasedly, as everyone takes the exact same test. With the sheer number of applicants increasing each year, colleges have to have a system that will efficiently evaluate prospective students. By its advocates, the SAT is seen as the “strongest predictor of college success,” as said by Kathryn Juric, the College Board’s vice president of the SAT program. Juric argues that test-optional colleges are disregarding a “reliable measure” of applicant’s future college success; those who wish to keep these standardized testing requirements believe that the scores reflect how well a student will thrive in a college environment. However, as colleges place more and more emphasis on these standardized tests, it is evident that students have begun seeking to improve their score by enlisting help by taking test prep, in which they improve their test-taking skills, but not their understanding of the material. Commonly, students who place well on the SAT/ACT do so because they have taken test prep, and as Alia Wong states, today’s students spend “thousands on test prep and college consultants,” proving how those who come from financially unstable families are at a disadvantage. The current stress on the SAT/ACT reflects poorly on students from low-income families, as “standardized tests correlate with family income.” By getting rid of the SAT/ACT requirement, colleges can provide equal opportunity for financially disadvantaged students to receive an education.
By having colleges aim toward instituting test-optional policies, schools can better provide applicants from all backgrounds with equal opportunities. Colleges should focus on students’ achievements, rather than if they can properly take a test. Some possible solutions that are being considered in certain universities all center around making applications more personal. Institutes such as Yale and MIT are having students’ admissions include videos, documents, images, etc. about certain prompts or the projects they had been working on prior to their application (their achievements in high school). By doing so, schools are able to see if students will thrive at a certain school, as a student can be accepted due to their standardized test scores, but may not succeed in a particular college environment — something a college would not be aware of unless they made the applications more personable.
The decision of University of Chicago to become test-optional will hopefully pave the way for other institutes to put less stress on the results of the SAT/ACT. Such tests do not appeal to students of low-income families, who do not have the resources to properly study and are thus at a disadvantage when applying to college. Institutes should consider such factors and alter their admissions process to allow all applicants equal opportunity.
Image Attribute: Pixabay