Applying to college is a bitch. Only a little over a year ago I went through this painful process, and let me tell you, I would never want to repeat it. The worst part of the application process was taking the annoying, stressful standardized tests. I ended up with less than perfect scores both times I took the ACT and was kicked out of the SAT (note: having the same cell phone as your sister and unknowingly putting them in your purse is a bad idea — test proctors don’t appreciate Fall Out Boy ringtones). There is no way to avoid the stress involved in testing, but now the College Board is making it downright unfair. A new policy has been put in place for SAT testing called Score Choice, which is about as ridiculous as it sounds.
The new policy is fairly simple: high school students can take the test as many times as they want and decide which specific scores to send to their colleges of choice. Students can hide any undesirable scores from schools they are applying to by not submitting their lower scores. So if a student takes the test 3 times and only wants one score sent, the other scores are hidden from colleges, when in the past, all the scores were sent automatically. The College Board argues that this makes the testing experience less stressful for students, alleviating some of the pressure and giving them more control over their scores and futures. I beg to differ.
What the College Board must fail to realize is that the new policy further widens the gap between the low-income, under-privileged college bound kids and the high-income, Harvard-bound-with-a-bribe-from-Daddy kids. Now that the test can be taken as many times as desired without any worry, those kids who can afford coaching, study groups and 10 tests will have an extremely unfair advantage. The kids who can’t afford any of these benefits will only be put at even more of a disadvantage because they won’t have the luxury of selecting their best scores among a dozen SAT attempts. With this policy, students’ abilities are being measured by the money they can spend rather than by the talents they possess in academics. The policy isn’t promoting equal opportunity for all students, but rather making a problem that already exists even worse.
Standardized tests are coined to be “an accurate predictor of a student’s success at the college level,” and Score Choice simply isn’t living up to this expectation. The only thing that Score Choice will be showing is that rich kids are good at memorizing how to get a perfect score on the SAT. Great schools can select those students with top scores, but they won’t be prepared for a campus where clearing away bad test scores with a few extra swipes of a credit card isn’t an option. If a college sees a perfect 2400 from a student, they are bound to get accepted. However, the school has no way of knowing if that was the first or tenth time that student took the exam. In turn, colleges can suffer because the SAT is inaccurately representing of the type of student the school is admitting.
In a way, this policy is promoting a dishonest way to get somewhere you want to be. It also promotes a false sense of security among students, making them feel like if they screw up it doesn’t matter because no one will have to know. This message is completely contradictory to what getting a college education is all about. Though it would be nice to make the SAT less stressful – I was kicked out, remember? – all Score Choice does it makes it easier for privileged kids to get into college, learning all the wrong lessons on the way.
Emma Jeszke is an assistant editorial page editor.