The Ivy Coach Daily

March 29, 2011

College Admissions Flaws

The highly selective college admissions process might be flawed but it is not similar to the lottery.

There is an opinion piece on “The Huffington Post” by John M. Eger in which Mr. Eger criticizes the college admissions process. In fact, Mr. Eger compares the college admissions rat race to the lottery when he writes, “Is who gets admitted to one of America’s coveted universities each year mostly a numbers process that is badly flawed? You are more likely to have success at LOTTO.” Mr. Eger couldn’t be more wrong and it’s this very kind of opinion piece that contributes to the college admissions craze that stresses out students, parents, teachers, and guidance counselors alike.

In his piece, Mr. Eger points out many of the imperfections of the current college admissions process. He takes aim at the SAT as “increasingly being discounted by colleges because, many critics have accused, [it] has a cultural bias toward the white and wealthy kids.” This is patently wrong, Mr. Eger. The SAT also favors wealthy Chinese and Indian students alike who can afford the high costs of great SAT prep for their children. Wealthy Chinese and Indian students can game the system just as “white kids” can!

And, Mr. Eger, it’s 2011…your argument is hardly new. Ever since the early days of the SAT, there have been complaints that the test is discriminatory. In fact, questions that test-takers of various ethnicities might construe differently were carefully examined and removed. For instance, an analogy like “club: waggle” would not appear on any recent version of the SAT. Why? Because depending on your background, one might associate the word “club” with a bar, a weapon, or golfing equipment. While the term “waggle” is a back-and-forth motion of the hands and wrist typically associated with golfing, this would give an unfair advantage to wealthy kids whose parents bought them golf lessons or took them out for nine holes on a sunny weekend day.

As for your argument that colleges are “increasingly discounting” the SAT (or ACT), you happen to be wrong again. Are there colleges that don’t require the SAT or ACT? Yes. Smith College, Bates College, and Union College don’t require it (they have test-optional policies…although, don’t be fooled, great SAT or ACT scores can surely increase your chances for admission even at these colleges). Middlebury College, Bryn Mawr College, and Hamilton College  don’t require the SAT or the ACT it if you submit SAT Subject Tests and AP / IB exam scores. But the aforementioned colleges are part of a very short list. Are there other schools that are test-optional? Yes. In fact, as of this date, there are 830 colleges and universities that have optional SAT / ACT policies. DeVry will accept you if you have a pulse (this may even be negotiable). But come on…the vast majority of competitive colleges and universities require the SAT / ACT and will require the SAT / ACT ten years from now barring the unlikely creation of a new test that can measure the aptitude of all college applicants more fairly than the exams currently in place.

If Mr. Eger hadn’t done enough damage by putting forth inaccurate information, he then takes aim at GPAs when he writes, “High schools don’t use the same GPA scale, ’according to Peterson College Search,’ and even when they do, many use weighted systems (perhaps giving extra ’points’ to grades from honors, accelerated, International Baccalaureate, or Advanced Placement classes), and employ varying methods of calculating a cumulative GPA. The trouble is that the GPA measure is incredibly imprecise and hard to compare. Thus Peterson says, ’Your GPA is very much dependent upon your high school setting and grading policies and the classes you have taken.’” The truth is that colleges are adept at leveling the GPA playing field. They receive high school profiles. They know the courses offered at each school. They know if an applicant is taking the most challenging courses possible. They know the colleges to which many of the high school’s graduates matriculate. They can easily unweight GPAs if that is the practice of a particular admissions office (as it is at many universities). They can easily just look at the grades and coursework without making any calculations (as is the practice at still other universities).

So, Mr. Eger, thank you for adding to the stress of the college admissions process by pointing out various alleged flaws of the system. While there are indeed flaws in the college admissions system, your inaccurate, flawed opinion piece suggests no remedies and as such, it’s entirely useless.

Read the opinion piece in “The Huffington Post” here.

Check out our related blog posts on weighted vs. unweighted GPA, SAT prep, and score choice, and read our newsletter Colleges with Optional SAT Policies.

And be sure to check out our SAT Prep Services or sign up for a Free Consultation.

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