In an academically competitive environment, many Ridgewood students face the pressure of standardized testing as they spend years studying, researching, and working to get into their dream school, all while stressing over the responsibilities and burdens that accompany high school life. Standardized tests, such as the SAT and the ACT, haunt the thoughts of high school students from the moment they step into the building. Although many efforts have been made to reduce the stress of college preparation and standardized testing, for many, test day has become known as Judgement Day. It has come to the point where tests are considered among students to be the decisive factor for their acceptance into a college. The magnitude that several digits can have on one’s entire future weighs on each high school student’s shoulders. But what exactly is the purpose and significance of such tests, and are they truly beneficial to both students and colleges? The answer may be no, as many colleges are starting to take off standardized tests from their list of requirements.
More than 800 colleges and universities have adopted different testing policies to best suit the needs of the college and the applicant. The increasingly popular “test optional” policy allows high school students to choose whether they want to send their SAT or ACT scores and determine whether they believe that their score appropriately represents their academic profile. While most schools choose to become SAT or ACT optional, others also choose to require the submissions of other scores, such as subject tests or AP scores, instead of the general standardized tests. Such colleges allow students to exempt from the submitting the SAT or ACT if they meet a certain GPA or if they apply to a certain program. This alternative to the “test optional” policy is known as the “test flexible” policy. Finally, the last option, the “test blind” policy, does not accept or regard any standardized test scores into a student’s application assessment. Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, is the only college currently enforcing the “test blind” policy.
As a prominent part of the admission process, standardized tests have many disadvantages and advantages that counselors, students, and admission officers need to take into account when deciding whether a certain policy would benefit or harm the overall community. As presented by Neal Christopherson from Whitman College’s Office of Institutional Research, SAT or ACT scores are a huge help to admission officers attempting to predict an incoming student’s GPA or the overall graduation or withdrawal percentage. However, others believe that a student’s entry into college should not be based on their score but rather their overall achievements through their four years of high school. SAT and ACT scores greatly limit creative students to a few digits and strip them of the individuality that colleges should be looking for. While standardized testing scores allow a convenient way for colleges to admit students or award scholarships, they could lead to race and economic class biases where students in poverty or of the minority can score lower as a result of difficult family environments or course selections. Moreover, “test optional” schools have recorded various positive outcomes to their policies, stating that the tests surprisingly reveal a small portion of a student’s abilities in comparison to their general records.
Hours of cramming, test taking, and the feeling of disappointment is something the majority of the community experiences. Every day, students are given grades, labeled by their GPAs, or assigned a class rank, causing the majority to lose sight that there is more to each individual than their scores. However, as schools create better testing policies, they are working towards creating a more comfortable environment for students around the country. With better flexibility in the realm of standardized testing, each student has the best chance to make the most of their experiences and an opportunity to enjoy and be comfortable on the road to college.
Graphics: Anika Tsapatsaris