About Me

My name is Spencer. I'm 23 years old, and I'm a junior at Princeton. So far college has taken me five years. I've taken time off to work, transferred to USC and come back, and learned a lot along the way.

I like to think about life and what I'm going to do with mine.

I've met a lot of people my age with the same sorts of thoughts so feel free to read, take surveys, and comment.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Claremont McKenna College - Under Pressure

Former Dean Richard Vos
Within the very new year, Dean Richard Vos, the admissions dean at Claremont McKenna College (or CMC), a top 25 liberal arts institution, admitted that the school had been falsely reporting inflated SAT scores since 2005. Former Dean Vos has since taken full responsibility for his (and whomever else's) actions and promptly resigned after taking much heat from the press, the public, and many other educational institutions and reporting agencies.

The President of the college, Pamela Gann, said that the averages of the scores were increased from 10 to 20 points per section. CMC also added that no individual students' scores were altered, but solely the averages.

Claremont McKenna even more recently took another blow as the finance magazine Kiplinger removed it from its list of best value in liberal arts colleges. In addition, the school reported its true test scores to the highly regarded U.S. News & World Report. Claremont McKenna had recently been moving up in U.S. News & World Report's rankings of national liberal arts colleges, where MCM currently sits at 9th. Nevertheless, the publication announced that it would not alter the current report issued, but, instead, it will take a look at the numbers and the impact will be reflected in next year's statistics.

There remains speculation as to the reason behind the exaggeration of the SAT scores. Some believe it to be a mistake, some like Daniel de Vise of the Washington Post think it's pressure to hold up prestige or increase it, and some, like Nathan Harden of the National Review, think that it could have to do with nationwide Diversity Programs such as QuestBridge and the Posse Foundation. These two programs were essentially designed to help increase economics and racial diversity in various participating universities. According to Harden, CMC began participating in the programs around the same time that the SAT scores started being inflated, which could suggest a correlation.

On a side note, I would like to bring attention to some of the reporting in the other articles surrounding this issue, which demonstrates somewhat of a lack of understanding about the current college academic climate and the SATs.

Concerning the seemingly minute increase on average of 10 to 20 points and whether or not the difference really matters, Los Angeles Times writer Larry Gordon wrote, "That is not a large increase, considering the maximum score for each section is 800 points." Also, speaking more in depth on this subject, Washington Post writer Daniel de Vise wrote, "Why would an admission dean risk the school's integrity to gain 10 or 20 points on an SAT average? That's the equivalent o[f] answering one or two more questions correctly on the test. It's the difference between, say, the 94th and the 95th percentile."

I will admit that I (and probably most others) immediately think, of course, 10 or 20 points, it really isn't that much... it's 1.25-2.5% of the exam. What's the difference? However, as I really start to think about it, both Mr. Gordon and Mr. de Vise are, for all intents and purposes, wrong. They aren't completely misled for they make very good observations; nevertheless, they don't know what it's like to be a student nowadays with the huge increase in competition surrounding the application process.

They forget that they are talking about a top university (perhaps not Harvard, but a very, very good school) where the 94th and 95th percentile may not cut the bill. Remember that we are talking about the top percentage of scores, and in that range, 1.25-2.5% can mean all the difference.

Additionally, they do not mention what I think many students (except for maybe only or eldest children) know, which is that once you are past a certain "minimum" GPA and SAT score, your academics don't necessarily directly determine if you get in. What happens next makes admissions seem like a crap-shoot; it's what I call, the unknown factors, which include, athletics, donations, race, economics background, specified extracurriculars, money, fame, etc (somewhat in that order).

All in all, I think the admissions process has significantly changed since Mr. Gordon and Mr. de Vise went through it last as students, and nowadays, 1.25% means an awful lot. Perhaps enough to justify Former Dean Vos's actions in his mind.

If you go ahead and read some of the comments in the linked articles, many beg the question: do the SATs mean anything at all? This is something I will come back to later on.

CMC ForumHuffington PostLos Angeles TimesLos Angeles Times: KiplingerNational ReviewWashington PostSan Francisco Chronicle (Gate)

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