I previously reported on the decision of the College Board to start using SAT score choice starting in 2009. Score choice, for those not familiar with it, is the option to tell the College Board which SAT scores you want sent to colleges. The ACT company has long offered this option but the SAT is now going to be offering it supposedly to make testing less stressful for students.
However, even before it goes into effect, some highly selective colleges are saying that they do not want their applicants to use score choice and will require the students to submit all test scores. Some of the schools who have announced that they want to see all scores include Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, Pomona, Claremont McKenna and the University of Southern California.
The statement by some colleges that they would like to see all SAT test scores creates some questions such as how do the colleges enforce this policy? Colleges are not told if a student has taken multiple exams so the students are presumably on the honor system to submit all test scores. But what happens if a student doesn’t submit all test scores and somehow the college finds out? Will there be a consequence? And what might the consequence be?
Ideally, students will follow the policies of the colleges to which they are applying. But knowing that some students will try to avoid the “full disclosure” policy, it would be nice to see further information from those colleges that are asking for all test scores on how they will handle those situations when a student does not follow the colleges stated policy.
Katherine Miller says
More Torture for Teenagers
Katherine I. C. Miller, M. Ed.
January 6, 2009
The recent article in the NYT (Dec 31, 2008) “SAT Changes Policy, Opening Rift with Colleges” highlights the most recent dialogue between The College Board and higher education. This discussion is fueling a wildfire of stress and confusion for college bound students which is already raging out of control. Where are the firemen?
The College Board announced this fall that it will change its policy regarding how students send their SAT scores to colleges, asserting that this change will reduce stress. The truth is that this move has had the opposite effect sending students, guidance counselors and parents scrambling, and adding more stress to an already impossibly stressful college admissions process.
Effective Feb. 2009 under a new policy called “Score Choice,” students will have the option to send only their best sitting (their best one day performance). This is a change from the current policy where all of a student’s SAT scores, from all test dates, are sent in one comprehensive report. The common practice has been for colleges to take the best score from each of the three sections from all test dates. This was a great way to go! Students knew that they did not have to be “perfect” in all three sections all at the same time: a great math score from December would be combined with a great reading score from March in the college’s eyes. Now, the College Board has changed the rules, higher education has yet to respond, and students are the victims of this confusion. Should students just take as many tests as possible hoping for that one good day? Maybe not. According to the Times article some top schools “…have said that, Score Choice or not, they want all the scores – from the SAT and the ACT.” Here again the miscommunication to students continues. The contract for exercising the new Score Choice for the SAT, and the existing score choice for the ACT, is between the student and the testing companies – it seems that schools do not have the ability to get all scores, even if they want them. What is the student to do?
Why are 17 year old kids put under this kind of excruciating pressure? We have not heard from colleges about what their admissions criteria may look like for next year’s seniors. Yet, eleventh graders are already taking SATs and ACTs to build their portfolios – they have to, they have no choice! The timetable is brutally tight: PSATs, SAT Is, SAT IIs, ACTs, AP Exams, midterms in January and finals in June….football game on Friday night? prom? Are you kidding? Eleventh graders are dutifully signing up for this while maintaining their grades, earning varsity letters, playing second chair in the orchestra and doing community service work – all the while with no clear direction as to how these tests will be required or weighed. The pressure on kids is enormous, even under the current policy where at least students had the knowledge that colleges could see all of their scores, but select the best. The new policy allows students to send just one set, three numbers, not nine to look at, just three! Which three? Should they still send them all? What will colleges want?
Each individual college determines its own admissions criteria. This year’s seniors saw more variation in admissions criteria than any prior year and it is a trend that will continue. Some schools were SAT optional, others allowed students to choose from a menu of requirements, Georgetown required three SAT IIs no matter what, University of Pennsylvania, Boston University and others accepted ACTs with Writing in lieu of SAT Is and SAT IIs, Penn State requires no letters of recommendation and the essay is optional, many schools will accept The Common Application, some schools require supplemental essays, others maintain their own individual applications – this is insane. Are we really expecting 17 year olds to navigate this? Guess what, they are not. The wealthy hire private consultants, and the middle class and poor are too often left out of the process completely.
The stakes are very high and the pressure is taking its toll. Kids are in tears, cancelling scores within 24 hours, taking the test record numbers of times to try to hit the mark, preparing for months (in some cases years), spending large sums of money on testing fees and prep courses – and if you’re an athlete, you need to post your numbers even earlier. Athletic scouts are not interested in the details of a full college resume, and why should they be? What’s his name? What are his erg scores? And what are his SATs?
Pete Rose said, “I would walk through fire in a gasoline suit to play baseball.” I love that quote, it is a powerful visual for passion. But for this generation of teenagers, they are being forced to walk through fire in a gasoline suit to apply to college. Who and where are the hoses!
Katherine Miller is a private Educational Consultant serving students in the greater Philadelphia area. http://www.katherinemillereducation.com