My daughter is smack in the middle of college applications and you know what?
It’s a miserable process.
Trust me when I say we all feel like the teen in the photo. The next four posts are written specifically for parents living in communities with high academic pressure and/or a high stress college application environment.
Today’s post looks at the usefulness (?) of the SAT in determining college readiness (Scroll all the way down for a Call to Action).
2. Ignore The Rankings – why rankings aren’t helpful in gauging institutional quality.
3. Stop Quaking in Your Boots! Debunking the Scariest College App Myths
4. Opt Out – A conversation with three high school students about why they chose not to participate in the National Honor Society.
*For more like this, join me for a free workshop
Let’s Ditch the SAT (Student Affluence Test)
In 2021, when my middle child was a junior and gearing up for the SAT, I took a deep dive into the research and frankly, was disgusted. The SAT is unfair because it favors those with resources. If a student's resources influence their scores, should we be using them to let students into college? Doesn't this simply continue to orient the system towards people with money?
1. Unfortunately, the SAT can be gamed.
You can increase your scores if you have the resources to:
Take test prep courses
Have SAT tutoring
Take the test multiple times
Let’s say there are two identical high schoolers. Student A takes an SAT course (~$1,000), is tutored ($75-100/hr), and has funds to take the test multiple times ($60/time). This outlay of money and time can (possibly) increase Student As score by 100 points. That’s enough to make a difference in college admissions. It’s also enough to make Student A look more accomplished than Student B – when they really are not.
2. Overall, the SAT (Student Affluence Test) is more likely to tell us about family income than student ability to succeed in college.
Students in families with higher incomes, get better scores on the SATs. There are many reasons for this but at the moment - this is true.
A grand and unintentional experiment is underway. During the pandemic, most US colleges waived their SAT requirements. And it stuck, supported in part, by the massive UC system’s decision to suspend the use of SATs in admissions.
“At least within the University of California... the SAT was not a very good predictor of academic performance based on the grades of students during their freshmen year…Grades in school, along with some evaluation of a student’s socioeconomic circumstance and achievements in that environment, proved to be a better predictor of academic performance and persistence to a degree.”
The two most recent cohorts of first year college students have been admitted SAT optional and though we need time to observe the overall impact, initial reports look promising - for fairness and for student sanity.
“I have yet to speak to a counselor at a low-income high school who doesn’t believe that test optional has helped open the doors wider for their students,” ~ Angel B. Pérez, chief executive officer of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (from New York Magazine)
"Studies of other colleges that went test optional before the pandemic have arrived at similar conclusions: After some time as an undergraduate, there isn’t much difference in the academic performance between students who submitted [SATs] and those who didn’t." (from New York Magazine)
There are some who disagree. Please see below. That said – it’s (really, really, really!) important to consider the body of research – don't cherry pick your data! read my thoughts about that here
Call to Action
These two problems alone (and there are more) make the SAT a questionable measure of future success. So, should you pay 60$ for a test that:
Has a negative impact on other children?
Doesn’t necessarily tell you anything useful about your child?
Makes gobs of cash for a company?
No – you shouldn’t. here’s what you can do instead.
Ditch it. Make a pact with your student to go test optional. Don’t take the SAT. Don’t purchase courses, tutoring, and support products. Instead, use that money to visit colleges, or take your student out to dinner and have a deep discussion about what THEY want, from a college and for their future.
Can’t quite ditch it? Scale back. Talk with your child about limiting the influence of the SAT in their college application process. Take it no more than twice and limit what you spend on SAT accessories. Make sure they know that the SAT is not an accurate measure of their worth, their future prospects, or their abilities.
TLDR (too long didn’t read)
The SAT (Student Affluence Test)
Can be gamed with resources
Reflects to family income more than to child ability
Is inherently unfair.
What can you do? Ditch it! Just walk away and commit to being test optional. OR scale back – take it no more than twice and don’t send your money to companies profiting off test taking.
TSWM (too short/want more)
Start with this article from New York Magazine – thoughtful and thorough consideration of both sides. https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2022/11/what-does-an-sat-score-mean-in-a-test-optional-world.html#comments
Gaming the System
A blog post can’t do justice to the complexity of this topic. Want to really get into the weeds?
Check out the work of David Hambrick - https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Zach-Hambrick
Race, Poverty and SAT Scores: Modeling the Influences of Family Income on Black and White High School Students' SAT Performance Teachers College Record · May 2013 DOI: 10.1177/016146811311500406
Journal of Educational Psychology 2016 American Psychological Association 2016, Vol. 108, No. 7, 1045–1059 http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/edu0000104 - Differential Prediction Generalization in College Admissions Testing