Written By: Eric Wickboldt
Graphic By: Luke Theodossy
Most United States colleges examine a variety of factors in order to choose which undergraduate students to admit. These factors often include grade point average, extracurricular activities and recognitions as well as one or more prompt-based essays. Additionally, for over half a century, nearly all United States schools have factored in or required standardized testing scores for undergraduate admissions. These tests are most commonly the SAT or ACT.
However, many have questioned the use of these tests. During the last two year’s undergraduate admissions, numerous colleges made the submission of standardized test scores optional, noting that testing dates have been disrupted and students’ abilities to attend the tests has been hindered by the pandemic. Now, the limited accessibility of standardized tests has resurfaced ongoing arguments regarding the tests’ ability to accurately measure mental aptitude as well as the equity or fairness of factoring them into college admissions.
In a poll sent to the Las Lomas student body regarding how the SAT and ACT tests should factor into four-year college admissions, 52.6% of respondents answered that the tests should be a factor in the admissions process but that they should be optional, and 44.7% of the respondents answered that the tests should not be required or a factor in the admissions process at all. The final 2.6% answered that the tests should be a requirement and a factor in four-year college admissions. Despite these numbers, students were still inclined to take the SAT or ACT, with 81.1% of respondents answering that they had taken or planned to take one of the tests with the remaining 18.9% answering that they did not plan on taking either of the tests but were still applying to a four-year college.
Las Lomas counselor Michael Constantin offered some of his thoughts on the value of the SAT and ACT tests: “I believe SAT and ACT do hold some value in indicating one’s preparedness for college. It can also act as a marker on a person’s ability to perform on standardized tests. However, there has been a lot of rightful talk on how equitable these types of tests truly are.” When asked about how these tests should factor into admissions and how four-year colleges should make admissions decisions, Constantin stated that, “I do like the fact that beyond grades and tests, colleges are looking for other attributes like extra-curricular activities (sports, clubs, volunteer work, etc.) and also using personal essays to understand more about the human side of potential students . . . I think giving students ways to share who they are and what they can bring to their potential school is very important.”
Additionally, Las Lomas students responded to similar questions regarding the value of the SAT and ACT and how they factor into college admissions. Sophomore Ellery Brownlee stated, “The SATs and ACTs test for academic smarts, whereas there are a lot of different ways that you can be smart, such as emotionally, socially, etc. It also does not factor in the stresses and even panic that comes along with taking a huge test . . . This can result in scoring lower test scores. It also doesn’t really take into account developmental and academic differences, such as ADHD, anxiety, or really being neurodivergent in any way.”
When asked whether the SAT or ACT are effective indicators of mental aptitude, senior Eric Du stated, “They are not necessarily an effective indicator of intelligence, they can be an indicator of how persistent one is.” He went on to state, “They should not play the primary role in admissions decisions, but should still play a role. Any objective standard can be a useful benchmark for comparing different students . . . [colleges] should admit applicants from a holistic standpoint: just like most colleges are doing now, factoring many different aspects of the student.”
Senior Ayden Stevens wrote that there should be an alternative to the tests: “I much prefer large research papers and believe they are a better way to not only show someone’s understanding or skill in a topic but to get actual insight on the writer. A test does not show any individuality which is ridiculous considering individuality should be a principal factor in college admissions.”
While debate over the impartiality of standardized testing continues, it is up to individual colleges and college systems to determine how to factor standardized tests into college admissions. The University of California system are some of the most sought-after schools to abandon the SAT and ACT, voting not to factor the tests into admissions decisions this year after pressure from a 2019 lawsuit, the settlement of which reaffirmed the school system’s decision last May by preventing it from using the scores when deciding who to admit.
Mr. Constantin email interview
Here are some of my thoughts:
1. I believe SAT and ACT do hold some value in indicating one’s preparedness for college. It can also act as a marker on a person’s ability to perform on standardized tests. However, there has been a lot of rightful talk on how equitable these types of tests truly are. I think there needs to be continued conversation around this.
2. As you may know CSU and UC applications are currently not using these tests in determining acceptance. I believe over 2/3 of colleges are making reporting scores optional. I do like the fact that beyond grades and tests, colleges are looking for other attributes like extra-curricular activities (sports, clubs, volunteer work, etc) and also using personal essays to understand more about the human side of potential student. I also feel this needs to be examined as well for equity.
3. I think grades are always going to be used in determining potential students. I think giving students ways to share who they are and what they can bring to their potential school is very important.
Maybe we also need to think more outside the box to determining who or who may not be accepted into a college. I am open to ideas as long as we look at it through a lens of equity and fairness.