Don’t predict college success with SAT scores

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (U-WIRE) — So, what did you get on your SATs?
Come on now, be truthful. Was it 1400? Nah, was it more like 1250?
Oops, wrong again. How about … 1050? 1050? Are you sure you got a 1050? I mean after all, you are a student at Penn State, University Park. Isn’t the standard requirement for admissions to main campus closer to 1300?
And didn’t you say your cumulative GPA is a 3.53 after four semesters here at Penn State?
Yeah, I thought that’s what you said. But that just doesn’t make sense.
But the thing is, it does make sense. For the past 20 years or so, the SAT scores have been a major factor in deciding which student to admit over another during the admissions process. A standardized test can make or break a student’s chances of getting into a top-choice school.
Don’t get me wrong; nowadays, universities don’t only evaluate a student’s academic success on the basis of how well they scored on the SATs. According to The New York Times, admissions at top tier universities look to evaluate a student on his strength of curriculum, grades, competitiveness of the high school, writing ability, leadership, depth and breadth of activities, and recommendations from teachers and counselors. It wouldn’t make sense to deem a student worthy of admittance to a university solely on how well he scored on a standardized test.
Nor would it make sense that a student is admitted only because his SAT score was above average. How well a student will perform in college has no correlation to how high one’s SAT score is.
Sure, we all know this. It’s a classic example of how a standardized test means nothing in the scheme of how well one does in the college environment. So the question lies here — why use the SATs as a component of an application to college when a student’s success can be evaluated on various other areas that hold more weight than a three-hour exam?
Let’s start here. I can use myself as an example. I scored a whopping 1090 on my SATs but did very well in my classes in high school. According to Penn State admissions criteria, I probably should have been admitted to a satellite campus instead of University Park. Yet I was admitted to the Penn State class of 2002.
I have spent four semesters here so far. Two of those four semesters I have made the Dean’s List. The other two semesters were by no means terrible either — they were approximately two to three grade points lower than a 3.5. Right now I am an English major and have maintained a cumulative 3.5 in my major.
So to say the least, I have done well as a college student, therefore implying that my SAT score has had no bearing on how well I have done in college.
It seems ridiculous, due to the hype surrounding high SAT scores, that there is an overload of programs designed to increase one’s score. Students are concentrating more on how to narrow down their choices on a standardized test rather than learning to write an expository essay, something that will prove to be beneficial in post-college years.
Many universities have opted to make the SATs an optional criterion in their application. Dickinson College in Carlisle just recently made submitting SAT scores optional.
The result: “The proportion of entering freshmen who graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school classes has risen to 50 percent from 25 percent,” according to The New York Times. It seems obvious that eliminating SATs from a college application would benefit not only the students but also the university.
Bypassing the SATs in the admissions process and replacing it with more writing samples places emphasis on other areas such as a student’s writing ability and decision making process. A student’s ability to think and express himself clearly through the written word will get him further in the career world than knowing how to break down a multiple choice exam.
Students should be encouraged to focus on learning rather than performing well on a standardized test. While there are exceptions, most students who did well in their high school courses and graduated at the top of their graduating class but scored slightly above average or average on the SATs have fared well in their undergraduate courses.
It’s evident that performing well on the SATs doesn’t have an effect on how well one does in college.
So I’ll ask you again — what did you get on your SATs?
Blake Miller’s column originally appeared in Pennsylvania State University’s Daily Collegian. Send comments to [email protected]