By Lexi Meola
Elm Staff Writer
The Scholastic Aptitude Test, better known as the SAT, has been a deciding factor for many undergraduate admissions decisions since 1926, when it was first administered. Nearly a century later, higher education institutions are removing the exam from their lists of application requirements.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States, it encouraged college administrations to take a closer look at the efficacy of the SAT. Some institutions began to question whether the SAT should hold so much weight in their decision to admit a student.
Washington College is a test optional school and was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that potential WC students have the option to submit their SAT score when applying. Choosing not to submit test scores does not influence a student’s consideration for admission.
Many universities and colleges in the United States are still catching on to this shift away from the SAT, and do not offer a test score submission option.
Many people know how stressful studying for the daunting SAT can be. The exam is greatly emphasized by adults who want students to do well, and by institutions who vet students using their scores. Knowing how crucial one test can be in determining academic futures pressures students. Worst of all, there are only seven test times available per academic year, which increases students’ anxieties about their testing performance.
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted many institutions to waive the SAT test requirement due to the disruption of the learning process with schools closing.
According to The New York Times, “With many high schools closed or teaching remotely for the rest of the academic year, a growing number of colleges and universities are waiving standardized test requirements amid the coronavirus pandemic.”
This change prompted some institutions to consider broader reconsiderations of the test’s inclusion in application materials beyond pandemic-related disruptions.
The University of California decided on May 20, 2020 to “phase out the SAT and ACT in the next four years,” according to The New York Times.
The University of California’s decision to phase out the exam gradually over time was adopted by other institutions as well. Classroom disruptions made large-scale testing exemptions necessary and highlighted the value other application components could hold both during and after the pandemic.
SAT-optional applications were being discussed by colleges prior to the pandemic. The exam places financial pressures on low-income families, and therefore disadvantages those students.
If we take a moment to look at the actual cost of taking the SAT — usually around $55 — it is easy to recognize how it may be difficult for low-income families to afford the registration fee for one student one time, let alone several tries for multiple students. In addition to registering for the exam, study materials and tutoring can be expensive.
The College Board’s official SAT preparatory book costs close to $20 on Amazon. For some families, that twenty dollars can seem like nothing. For others, that is money that would be better served putting dinner on the table.
The Princeton Review is another well-known SAT prep resource. Their online one-on-one tutoring for the SAT costs up to $150 an hour and the program even has specific plans to help students with score goals. According to The Princeton Review’s website, the cost for a “guaranteed” 1400 on the exam is a whopping $1,449.
These resources, and the money they cost to acquire, could make or break a student’s performance on the exam. This is an issue that demonstrates how test-optional college applications may be more equitable.
“Kids from poor families do worse [on the SAT and ACT] than kids with more money. Wealthy parents can provide benefits that many poor families can’t, such as tutors, learning opportunities, the best medical care, and schools with ample resources,” according to The Washington Post.
The college admissions scandal that shocked parents and students in 2019 reflects this concern.
“The massive college admissions scam proved that some wealthy families could buy their children’s way into college. Federal prosecutors indicted dozens of people for their alleged roles in a scheme that involved either cheating on standardized tests or bribing college coaches and school officials to accept students as college athletes,” CNN said.
The SAT is an intimidating exam that causes many students anxiety, especially if they struggle with test-taking in particular. In addition to causing mental stress on students, the exam places undue economic pressure on low-income families. Rather than relying on an exam that is not equally accessible to all students, colleges and universities should focus on rounded applications consisting of representative materials.
When a student participates in an activity for a long period of time it demonstrates that they are dedicated to that hobby or sport. Grade point averages, transcripts, and resumes compile four years’ worth of data, better encapsulating one’s overall academic performance. These materials are better suited for admissions decisions, especially in light of the pandemic.
Students should not be limited in their choice of college due to a single standardized test score. Removing the SAT from the college admissions process would allow students to reach a fuller potential by eliminating the financial and emotional stress that it creates.
Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Featured Photo Caption: The SAT is one of many standardized tests used by colleges and universities to gauge the academic abilities of applicants.