Likely, everyone knows that in the LSA Admissions Office, a perfect 1600 on the SAT is worth 12 points, significantly less than the 20 received for being an underrepresented minority (a group including blacks, Native Americans and Hispanics). It is this egregious discrepancy – completely antithetical to the standards of achievement for which the University should be striving – that has affirmative action antagonists up in arms.
Upon examining the University admissions scorecard further, one finds that the 12 points awarded for the 1600 SAT are also awarded for a 1360 (or the 31-36 ACT range). The rewarding of the same points for these two scores is questionable, if not sinful, especially for those who spent countless hours fretting over their standardized test scores. Given the rubric, the next tier of standardized test scores (1200-1350) would get a single point less than those in the category that received a 1600. A student with a 1200 on the SAT receives just one point less than a student with a perfect 1600.
Unfortunately, the incongruities with the admissions criteria aren’t limited simply to disparaging (and somewhat disquieting) reward policies for the SATs. Students graduating with a 4.0 grade point average from their high school receive a whopping 80 points on the scorecard. Similarly, a B-student receives 60 points (generally, 100 points gets a student admitted).
This doesn’t seem important until it’s noted that the difference between the B-student and the A-student is equal to the points awarded for being an underrepresented minority. The message this sends, while certainly unintentional, is alarming. It allows a B-student, who also happens to be an underrepresented minority to be viewed (by admissions standards) as the academic equal of a racially over-represented A-student. Those two students should never be considered equal under any system; there is no more telling evidence that the Admissions Office needs reforming than the inflation of a minority student’s B-average to a majority member’s straight A.
It’s equally unsettling to me that I received 20 unearned points (16 for my geographical location, and four as a legacy) as it is to see underrepresented minorities receiving 20 unearned points. Ideally, the admissions process should consider the student’s academic achievement, contributions to the community and standardized test scores. It is understandable to award points for adjusted curriculums, as students have different access to curriculum – but not too many. Here, the University’s admissions process succeeds. However, the curriculum points system fails in its penalization of students coming from poor districts.
This makes little sense. It would be enough of a penalty to give students who have participated in weak curriculums a zero, subtracting points from them is counter-productive, especially if the opportunities aren’t available.
The other major deductions on the University admissions scorecard fall under “miscellaneous.” Students can receive one of four 20-point perks: One for being an underrepresented minority, a scholarship athlete, socio-economically disadvantaged – and the provost can bestow bonuses where he sees fit.
“Socioeconomic disadvantage” is extremely vague. The Admissions Office cannot employ any strategy in determining one’s socioeconomic standing. Sure, they could cull information from the FAFSA, but they’re due much later than the University begins reviewing applications. Instead, the application reviewers must glean information from student’s essays, letters of recommendation or estimations based on an applicant’s hometown. Because there is no concrete way to assert that a student has financial need until FAFSA figures are available, these 20 points can easily be manipulated by students in their essays. Whether students would consciously attempt to impoverish themselves in a personal statement (“it was so hard eating Mayonnaise sandwiches for the last two years of high school”) is questionable, but the possibility exists. And those 20 points could be critical.
Boiling down the University’s admissions policy to an examination of race and its applicability in admissions is a simplified treatment of a far more complicated issue. The students at this University – all of them – are here because of a system rife with flaws. While the specifics of the University’s admissions policy are far more than troublesome, its tokenism and inconsistency aren’t limited to Ann Arbor. The reform of the collegiate admissions process needs to be reconsidered on a far greater level than the elimination of racial preference in admittance policy.
Luke Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.