Thursday, April 7, 2016
Beware colleges where SATs are now optional
A reader writes: "My counselor told me that many colleges are dropping the SAT and ACT and becoming test optional. She pointed out even Stanford does not require tests beyond the SAT or ACT. While Stanford now recommends submitting SAT Subject tests, they are no longer required."
Nice comment on the SATs. However, the devil is in the details. You should always ask yourself why any college or university would make tests optional and drop mandatory testing. Sure, many will naively believe that by dropping the SAT or ACT requirement, colleges are doing students a big favor by making it easier for them to get in.
However, placing more emphasis on grades (that suffer from inflation) and class rank (where many high schools graduate twenty valedictorians or have dropped class-rank altogether), is a cover for something more sinister.
The name of the game is body count. Test optional means, first and foremost, these colleges are hurting for students. They are generally the ones who hope to attract students willing to pay $50K or more a year for a private college education — but in order to do so they had to drop their standards.
Here's the skinny: Test optional colleges don't usually report test scores of the lowest scoring students. Students who opt to report their scores are usually the ones who score higher. That way test optional colleges can admit lower scoring students while at the same time maintaining artificially higher test averages in the US News and World Report rankings.
One more consideration is the quality and type of employers that recruit on campus. Test optional schools may give aid and comfort to the admissions office. But ask them about the placement rate of graduates and starting salaries for jobs — if they don't provide you with statistics that go five years back, drop them like a hawk. Same for graduate and professional school placement rates. Caveat emptor.
Gerald Bradshaw is an international college admission consultant with Bradshaw College Consulting.