Many of our nation’s elite colleges went test-optional this year due to the pandemic. But as we have advised students and parents on the pages of this college admissions blog, test-optional policies should be taken with six grains of salt. So long as a university allows students to submit test scores, all else being equal, a student with a great SAT or ACT is always going to have an advantage over a student who doesn’t submit an SAT or ACT. And while these words may very well run counter to the promises of admissions officers and the accusation that they’re not telling it like it is about test-optional policies may get them all riled up, why should students and parents believe admissions officers? Why should students and parents believe people — holier than thou as they may think they are — who have a history of not telling it like it is? Let’s walk our readers through this history with five other instances in which admissions officers have sugarcoated the truth.
5 Examples of Admissions Officers Not Telling It Like It Is
- “We’re need-blind. We don’t factor in your family’s ability to pay.” If that were true, these same schools wouldn’t ask on their supplements if students needed financial aid — as so many of them do. If they were truly need-blind, the very people who were weighing a student’s case for admission wouldn’t be privy to their financial situations. The fact is, colleges rely on tuition dollars and if they were truly need-blind, well, then they’d risk offering admission to an entire class that needed aid. They’d be in financial peril in no time.
- “We don’t care about our college ranking.” Oh please. The jobs of admissions deans so often depend on these rankings. These schools aim to recruit more and more students to apply each year to boost their application numbers and invariably lower their admission rates. Don’t tell us that when a college climbs from #13 in US News & World Report to #8, they don’t jump for joy
- “Optional essays are optional.” Oh sure. You don’t have to complete them. You can leave them entirely blank. They are optional if you just wish to apply and not give yourself a great chance of getting in. Don’t leave them blank, optional or not. This is an applicant’s chance to make his or her case!
- “Legacy admission isn’t a major advantage. Nor is applying Early.” Oh right. When a university fills a fifth of its Early seats with the sons, daughters, and grandchildren of alumni, that’s not much of an advantage. When a school offers admission to 26% of Early candidates and 8% of Regular candidates, that’s not much of an advantage. Are we seeing the same numbers?
- “We don’t discriminate against Asian American applicants.” Yes, you do. Maybe not intentionally. But you do. It’s called implicit bias.
No, We Won’t Take Your Word For It
So when those admissions officers so loudly and vociferously argue that, all else being equal, a student with no SAT or ACT score has the very same chance as a student with a perfect SAT or ACT score, ask them to demonstrate it. Ask them to do what Yale University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology did this year by banning the submission of SAT Subject Test scores. Or follow the lead of the California Institute of Technology by going not test-optional but test-blind. Ask them to eliminate the testing section of the Common App. — or include a section for testing only for schools that require tests (like the Courses & Grades section). But, until they do that, no matter how loudly they argue that the student with no score has the same chance as the student with a great score, no matter how vociferously they say because we said so and how dare you question us, recognize that they’ve offered you no facts to support their case and they’ve got a history of not always telling it like it is. And are there exceptions? You bet. Those exceptions — those admissions officers who don’t sugarcoat the truth — have long been recognized and identified as heroes of this college admissions blog.
We leave you with a few words from journalist Jeffrey Selingo. In a recent piece for The Atlantic entitled “The SAT and the ACT Will Probably Survive the Pandemic—Thanks to Students,” Selingo writes, “Being test-optional, though, is far different from not taking the scores into consideration at all. In making this move, colleges have created a muddled middle ground that confuses applicants and makes some distrustful of the whole process.” Amen.
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