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.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Standardized Testing: Why The SATs?


Many people ask, "How can we possibly base our admissions for higher education on a few standardized tests? How can we trust the SATs, especially because of all the recent news surrounding fraud and cheating? (New York SAT cheating scandal and Exaggerated SAT scores at Claremont McKenna). Aren't grades and academic performance enough?"

First and foremost, I will admit that given the current time frame and budget, I cannot think of a more balanced way to evaluate prospective university students. It may not be the fairest way, but, as I will explain later, we do indeed need some standard to work with.

On a side note, there are in fact so many more than qualified students that the current process can't help but be unfair; sadly to say, there's a lot of what I call, "unknown factors," such as luck, money, athletics, discrimination, reverse-discrimination, and legacies etc that really decide who gets in and who doesn't.

Now getting back on track, in an ideal world, if we had an unlimited amount of time and money, then schools could have multiple admissions officers live with and really get to know every single applicant for about a month in order to get a good feel for the student's qualities and academic and social abilities...but that will never happen. It would take years, perhaps even multiple decades. Online applications are now the standard, and if the need for financial aid further increases, top tier schools (which are generally well-endowed) tend to receive more and more applications each year.

Even further proving my point that university admissions workers don't have enough time comes from my own experiences. During college applications, if you're lucky enough to get a face to face interview rather than a phone call, many are conducted like speed dating. All of us "prospects" go to a random building that may or may not be near our homes, and we wait with much of our "competition" until we are called into a small office to have our very brief and tightly scheduled 15-30 minute interview. Now, not all of my experiences happened like this, but many were very similar for both me and my friends.

As I said above, standardized testing in general may not be the fairest way, but, as of now, it is the most reasonable. Unfortunately, we need a standard and cannot simply admit kids based on GPA or honors classes because of the huge difference of teaching ability and funding between schools. I don't think that anyone would disagree that a student gets a better education at a well funded public school over a poorly funded one. In addition, I'm sure that most people would agree that private school students (in the United States) have access to significantly better teachers, facilities, and work materials than nearly any publicly funded middle- or high-school. Thus, because some children get a far better education and many more opportunities to learn than other kids, it would be very unfair to simply admit students based on, for all intents and purposes, what district they are from and how much they pay for high-school.

Additionally, it is nearly impossible for admissions officers to know every school that inflates grades. Some admissions boards find (after multiple years) that certain schools have a reputation for inflating grades, but that pattern changes year by year and school by school. Furthermore, admissions officers can't really judge how difficult a high-school is. Even though a school may inflate grades, its honors classes may be 10 times harder than a typical high-school. Again, it's impossible to really know.

Seemingly, the only semi-agreeable option that remains are standardized tests such as the SATs or ACTs. They may not be the best way, but, for now, they are the only way.

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