Admission Standards: Up to Standard or Substandard? part 2

“Standardized” Admissions Standards?

For the most part, our experts disapproved of overemphasis on standardized admissions tests such as SATs or ACTs. These tests are by no means meaningless and are an excellent indication of competence in certain areas. But there is no question that many schools became over-reliant on them and failed to consider sufficiently other qualities that an applicant can bring to the table. An SAT can demonstrate that a student has a good vocabulary and a handle on grammar and usage. But it cannot, for example, pick out a talented poet or public speaker. It can determine if a student can handle basic mathematical equations, but it cannot necessarily tell if (s)he can concatenate data in a logical fashion.

Ganjian says, “I am happy to see that more institutions are changing their criteria each year by allowing applicants to apply without standardized test scores. I think this benefits many students and I look forward to seeing the evolution of test-optional admissions in the years to come.” Greenbaum agrees. “Are you referring big picture to standardized test scores, GPA, and rank? I think that portfolio assessments are best with less reliance on standardized test scores.” She observes, however, “But that is difficult at medium and large-sized schools.”

Nold-Glaser concludes, “I wish there was less emphasis on standardized tests, the ACT and the SAT. Some kids are just poor test takers. We are clear that socio-economic status has an effect on these scores. A few months ago I was reading about a school that is working on shifting their admissions process away from standardized tests and it was fascinating to read about other variables. Oregon State University developed its “Insight Resume” a few years ago, which asks students to respond to six different aspects of their lives and experiences. It’s great and a way for students to illuminate various aspects of themselves in a way that is less daunting than the traditional college essay. … I think there will always be students who perform well on standardized testing or who perform poorly on standardized testing, and their performance is not necessarily tied to their academic abilities. It is one way to help determine which students will perform well on standardized tests. Many schools rely heavily on standardized testing within their curriculum. Many schools do not and actually ‘advertise’ their holistic admissions processes.”

Inconsistent Criteria?

De-emphasis on formal testing, of course, may lead to some inconsistency, and even confusion. Nold-Glaser questions whether colleges are clear about what they require. “I wish colleges could be really transparent about the total cost of attendance. Beloit College, for example, publishes financial aid information by family income bands. It separates out grants & scholarships, loans and work study. It gives the range of awards per income band. I think that is really helpful.”

Foreman adds, “Many colleges are not real about what their college really offers and students are given the wrong perception. The cost of attending college has sky rocketed and is just not affordable by most students/parents. The inconsistency is seen with the SAT scores/ GPA/ etc., and quite frankly all of these are not taken into consideration. But they try to make the students believe all of these things are part of the requirements.”

Yet Davis points out that schools are -- and should be -- as individual as the students, themselves. “I think a college has the right to choose whatever criteria they want for selecting among their candidates. There are schools who don't consider test scores. That's their right. You may be interested in taking a look at what has happened to the student profiles of many of these ‘test optional’ schools. I know of many of these schools where, because the numbers of applications have increased, they find that the actual profile of the admitted students has increased as well. There are some colleges who will offer a little ‘forgiveness’ for less than stellar academic performance. There are some colleges who say, ‘We are not need blind,’ and want to know if you are going to rely on financial aid, and some who say they will meet 100% of demonstrated need. (There is a cautionary word there that parents need to understand.) Inconsistent? YES! Each college offers a different and unique environment, and each college will have different and unique criteria for (again) meeting the long term goals of the institution.”