However it has been my experience that whenever an explicit test or hierarchy is removed another shadow one builds up that is more subjective, more biased, and more subject to abuse.
Sure the SAT/ACT does favor students whose parents had enough money to afford private tutors, but it also meant that if I didn't have a private tutor if I could get a perfect score my chances increase. Now it changes to the whims of the interviewer, the committee that ranks my "holistic" experience, etc.
The SAT/ACT are the worst form of college admission criteria very much in the same way that democracy is the worst form of government... except for all the others. A lot of people criticize them, but those critics haven't come up with anything better.
Also, even in "free" education systems, some taxpayer is going to ask "why the hell am I paying for 2/3 of crappy students, can't you just raise the bar at the beginning, and only accept the top 1/3?"
In an ever more pacing world, we should readjust and look back, some might "sacrifice" a year, but they also learn valuable experience so not all is lost.
Today, when people's work time can last 50 years easily, what is a year or more?
Let people "search for themselves". Let them try out the hard things, let them explore and value experience, realize if something is for them or isn't.
In the end, we learn most from our mistakes, not successes.
That's only if you do nothing else for the rest of the year...
University of Washington (Seattle) has a similar system in which some majors are 'capacity constrained' meaning some students would be directly admitted to the program, but the vast majority of them would only enter the major program after being accepted via application while already attending school.
Highly competitive programs included Business and Engineering, but this even spilled over into less popular STEM variants like Math. Their CS program was and is the most competitive of these. At its worst an application round would have ~2000 applications and only ~600 open slots.
During my time there, I met a handful of students that had applied every session for the last few years to no avail. The opportunity cost is enormous. It's both a waste of time and money on the part of the students to spend multiple years wasted taking intermediate courses, retaking major-application required courses and reapplying. That's why the administration is slowly converting over to deciding major on admission, too much visible grievance on the part of students.
That aside, if it's competitive enough, it turns into a second college admissions process. Students retake the core classes required for an application like they would retake the SAT or ACT. Never mind that they passed CS 142 with a 3.4, only a 4.0 will get them in so they waste a quarter perfecting the most basic java programs for content they learned a few months prior. Students also try to engineer around the competition: a common refrain was that the equivalent courses at community college were much easier, but given the same weight in the admissions process so students would go to another college to take an easier course just to have a better shot at their dream major.
The point is that the competition for these colleges will come to a head somewhere. If it's not the college application process then it will be at the school itself. It can be managed, but putting it off till later leads to a greater burden on the losers of this process. They are faced with the choice of changing majors, changing schools or persisting with the hope that maybe the fifth application will be different than the fourth.
Fostering this kind of environment was a mistake on the part of UW. Perhaps it would have been better if they restricted applications to first years and weeded them out completely from the start like they do in your area, but letting the college admissions process do it might be much more efficient on the part of both the schools and the students.
You can take the same courses online and buy all the same books but that doesn't prove you're smart and hard working enough to get into Harvard and MIT. Almost all of the value in going to Harvard over Boston community college is in the degree which proves you made it into an exclusive and competitive group.
It was pretty brutal but also highly effective at getting me to really study the material to stay above the curve and pass.
Also, from the context given here it's not as black and white as pass vs non-pass or "lowering standards" - it's about a rolling cut off on the amount of students they can take.
For some the truth may be that their lack of success may be external issues that can't be resolved by an additional investment of staff resources or just unsuitability for the program that can't be resolved other than by picking a more suitable major.
There is of course in the context of US education which wastes massive amounts of money so the actual answer is to stop wasting money on sports and invest that money in students but in all cases resources remain finite and some failure rate is inevitable.
In the case of struggling students. I think it's hard to dismiss a person because they struggle in a single course. I failed calculus 2 and now I'm about to finish a PhD doing statistics and machine learning. Should I have been "let go" so to speak upon that failure?
Failures matter when they are cumulative not singular. This is why early warning systems in education fail so much. They rarely have enough information to provide a warning that is actually early.
How many years of time do you think it is humane to provide to a student before suggesting somehow that they might consider an alternate use of their time?
SAT and ACT has been around for so long, I think college admissions can account for deviations to a certain extent.
Basically - the countries have a number of slots for a profession they are looking to fill or that they expect demand for. They create that many university places that create eligibility for the position. Getting into these spots can be ridiculously difficult and the standardized exam is weighed MUCH MUCH more heavily than in the US (with it's "holistic" approach).
Whether or not this merit based / tracking based approach (which actually starts earlier in high school and before for many countries) is what leads to excellent outcomes is a question. But the tradeoff with free education is that the really expensive education has lots of criteria before you get it for free.
Spots are awarded very heavily based on points that anyone can calculate.
"Admission to the LAB University of Applied Sciences is dependent on scores earned either in the entrance examination or in SAT-test. Eligibility in itself does not yet guarantee admission. Student selection will be a competitive process in which the best Finnish degree certificates or entrance examination results or SAT results produce a place of study. See the studyinfo.fi -page for more information about student selection.
The applicant with the highest points score will be offered the first place, the second highest will be offered the second place, and so on until all places available have been offered.
In cases of equal minimum admission scores applicants will be ranked on the following ground:
all students with the same score will be selected."
Not disagreeing with you at all. Just wanted to point out another facet of the debate.
So what's better to learn as a child, an easy to learn language or a really difficult one? Or maybe an easy one orally but a difficult writing system? I have no idea, but it's an interesting question indeed.
Spelling in English is an atrocious amalgam of contributions from a number of languages. My son is learning that in school so I am getting a front-row seat to that (especially given me out of work and remote schooling). He is constantly running into places where the rule he just learned does not apply.
Oddly, I have heard the argument before that Japanese and Chinese students are at an advantage due to the complexity of writing their languages. The argument being that their brans are being trained by that to work harder. I am not sure I buy either argument.
My kid is growing up bilingual, with English his stronger language. We both grouch about the "atrocious amalgam of contributions" that is the English language when he wants an explanation why the words 'rough', 'though', 'through', 'thought' and 'plough' all have different pronunciations.
If I remember California State Colleges have a bunch of placement tests to gauge what level of classes to put beginning students in. I think I'd be happier with a system that throws a net wide and than deals with the result on an as needed basis. Than a hyper meritocratic system that excludes large segments of society.
Pet peeve: There is no European system. At least every country has their own unique system.
Trying to tar the whole of Europe with one brush would be like Europeans conflating the US education system with Paraguay and Ecuador because it's the "whole American system".
They don't care that you were the captain of the fencing team or can play harmonica.
What many countries do, unlike the US, is having life-defining entrance exams. Unlike the SAT/ACT which are just one factor of many, these tests determine whether a student gets in to a university or not.
The SAT may not be a great test, but at least it's not the sole factor in determining admission. It's absolutely better than what most European systems use.
Finland has been the poster child in pre-university education now for almost two decades due to the good PISA results. Maybe less so recently as Finland's results have been in a slight decline.
It’s not that common in elite liberal circles, especially in the NE corridor and California.
Note that some people in this group do go to church, but it’s just not widely advertised and is typically not a central part of their lives (e.g.(compared to some places where going to church for some sort of event 2-3 times on Sunday and 1-2 times during the week is a thing).
Also note that every Ivy League school was founded around a church and the church-based seminary/school. The same is true of many of the elite feeder prep schools. Note that there is a church prominently in the middle of all of the campuses.
That said, rightly or wrongly, churches are associated with anti-science folks who are anathema to most academics and academic types.
It’s not. Even in Manhattan 45% of people attend religious services “frequently” or “regularly.”
37% of professors at elite universities are atheist or agnostic. Saying Harvard is friendly to the religious because it has a divinity school is like saying Stanford is a hotbed of the rightwing because of the Hoover Institution, except that you would expect a lot of atheists and agnostics at Harvard’s divinity school and no Marxists at Hoover.
I sometimes wonder if the US is less secular than Europe because atheists were for a long time associated with communists. Church going people obviously couldn't be communists.
I’m not sure I feel like giving the benefit of the doubt here. I think folks are acting in good faith, no doubt. But they have decided that everyone who doesn’t talk, think, and act like them is a danger to society. Where those people are white, they can be condemned as “deplorables.” Where those same views are shared by minorities (Asian Americans with respect to views on family and marriage, and meritocracy, black people with respect to views on religion, etc.) they just select figureheads that happen to agree with them and then have those people claim to speak for everyone non-white.
University admissions are not just an issue of personal merit. It isn't something that you're owed because you did X, Y and Z. Colleges are trying to build a positive culture, just like startups, and that can involve rejecting skilled people with fringe beliefs.
Not to mention, who wants to pay $30,000/yr and have their kid be roommates with a holocaust denier?
People can believe whatever they want. They just can't work and go to school wherever they want
It took me ~1.5 years to prepare for these tests (English was the hardest; math, physics, bio and chemistry are fairly easy because I finished high school there and the curriculum there is much tougher than the ones in the states), but in the end it's 100% worth it because without the scholarships, I'd never have been able to study in the US and be able to support my family (siblings and widowed mom) back home. If the admission committee decides solely based on holistic view like volunteering and other extracurricular activities, how could I compete with other well-off kids in the US for admission?
If one can ignore these ugly aspects and one can be patient to wait for the books needed to show up on the shelf (I took a bus for 45 minutes one way to go to the embassy almost everyday and stay there from 9am-2pm every day to catch the book I want being returned), the embassy is still the best resource we had.
The question is not, is the SAT bad, it is, what about the new system will be better and fairer.
The other factor - this is likely a way to reduce asian american attendance at the top UC schools. The Harvard case really revealed how legacy admits etc came in with MUCH lower scores. Same thing with the scandal around sports admits, a way to get in with MUCH lower SAT scores. I'm not against either, but getting away from SAT will help hide this fact (ie, big donor gets kid in even if they are 200 points lower than average).
This is exactly what I was thinking when I read the Times article about this yesterday. I also applied to college last year, so I have a pretty recent knowledge of the process.
I spent a grand total of $28 and managed to get a 99th percentile score on the SAT. To claim it’s impossible to score high on that test without money is absolutely false. There are many free or low-cost resources out there, including Collegeboard sponsored Khan Academy prep (free for everyone). All it really requires is time and discipline (as do other things in life). Sure, it’s not perfect, but GPA and extracurriculars can vary vastly across schools, and the SAT provides a pretty good indicator of one’s academic ability in comparison to others.
The supreme irony in my case is that I go to a school in Texas for completely free thanks to merit scholarships funded in part by Texas taxpayers, while the schools in my state (California) are charging $30k per year despite being funded by my parents’ taxes. Basically, going out of state was more affordable in my situation.
No one is claiming it's "impossible", and I don't want to minimize your experience -- 20 years ago, I also scored 99th percentile on the SAT with only $15 spent on practice books -- but it's absolutely not the norm.
The reality is that a SAT scores correlate with wealth. Both directly, in that while you and I may not need tutoring to improve our scores, there are also millions of kids out there who do benefit from expensive tutoring, and millions of kids who would benefit, but don't because they can't afford it. But also indirectly: I'd be willing to bet you don't come from a low-SES background: i.e., living in poverty, unable to afford basic needs, parents or guardians infrequently present, with unsteady income, etc. (For the record, I don't have this background.) If I'm wrong about your background, you are truly an exception, not merely in the 1% of SAT scorers.
Using the SAT in college admissions means that admissions is biasing -- at the margins -- towards, of those students who would benefit from expensive tutoring, the subset who can afford it.
Everything good correlates with wealth. Wealth is quite literally the ability to make things happen.
The relevant question is, do SAT scores correlate with wealth more or less than whatever holistic criteria the UCs will be switching to? And if they correlate more, is it because the holistic criteria are actually fairer or because the UCs are Goodharting on highly visible measures such as wealth?
Well, no, because the SAT correlates with wealth while plausibly having claim on being an objective measure.
When little Johnny gets an internship as his daddy's company, that obviously correlates with wealth, and admissions committees can discount it. When little Susie is on a groundbreaking paper from mommy's lab, that obviously correlates with wealth (not necessarily financial), and admissions committees can discount it.
Other activities can be more easily/obviously/readily discounted for wealth, while the SAT's correlation with wealth is harder to account for.
Yes, some private high schools feed to quality summer research programs, but A) those schools give out more aid than you'd think and B) a number of public magnet schools have similar success in placing students with labs. I am sure that this does still correlate with wealth to some degree, but I don't think it does so in a way that the admissions committee can easily "see".
Beyond that, I think the vast majority of admissions committees (including all of the ivies) have little interest in discounting anything. I watched a lot of students that to be honest were just average get into very good schools, purely on good (inflated) grades from a name brand high school. The kids from my summer research cohort also got into very good schools for the most part, but those students were actually some combination of insanely smart and insanely dedicated.
It's a very hard problem for sure, I don't feel confident enough to say strongly that a particular set of metrics is obviously good or obviously bad. But I don't think removing standardized testing on the whole is likely to help with discounting for wealth (and I also don't think they really want to).
FWIW I think SAT/ACT are bad indicators for the "elite" schools because they just saturate and stop having much value in splitting the applicant pool. Especially the math section, it becomes a matter moreso of making a careless mistake or two.
> I think SAT/ACT are bad indicators for the "elite" schools because they just saturate
this is a feature. Elite schools don't want to be able to tell the 0.5% from the 5%, because then they wouldn't be able to select for rich and solidly but not amazingly competent kids. They'll take the 0.01% olympiad medalists to fill their genius quota, then fill the rest of their cohort with solid, hardworking, well-connected kids who'll boost the prestige (and donations) of their institution more than the scrappy smart kid who aced every standardized exam with no support to speak of but probably won't (want to) learn the lingo and do the hustle to make it into McKinsey's.
"Average" on what criteria?
I think I was unclear about research experience and similar -- it's not that having these experiences is a marker of wealth, it's that if the experience was only enabled by wealth, then it's more visible. If you're in mommy's lab -- what wealth without talent can get you -- it's clearer than if you got a tutor for the SAT. But perhaps I'm wrong on this.
You also raise a good point -- I don't think schools want to discount for wealth. I think they want to have interesting and capable people. Wealth makes many, if not most, people more interesting and capable. Why discount for that?
They want to avoid uninteresting, incapable students who appear interesting and capable because of wealth -- but there's no issue with admitting interesting, capable students who could take advantage of their own (parents') wealth to become more interesting and more capable!
Elite schools have long used the SAT/ACT as a "shouldn't score below XYZ" indicator for middle class students, and as a way to propel underrepresented students.
In the end, there isn't any point in admitting a student to a university where they don't understand the curriculum. So the important question that I expect universities to ask themselves is: are we getting enough information about how well a student is going to be prepared for our curriculum based on their SAT score?
If rich people who know less have higher SAT scores than poor people who know more, then the systemic bias is in the SAT itself. If not, then the SAT isn't the problem, the actual school system is. And, unless they want to take on educating younger children, Universities can't to do too much to fight that type of bias.
I firmly believe that exams are in principle the only fair way to do admissions in educational institutions. They could be national exams or admissions exams created by that institution itself, but either way, as long as the exams are kept un-biased (which I'm not claiming is an easy problem to solve) and scoring is anonymous, you get the closest thing we have to a fair process.
The only alternative could be an easy exam covering just the bare-minimum knowledge, and a lottery system for everyone who passes the exam.
Of course, private universities are free to be as biased as they want. I don't think it's ethically or morally correct, but it shouldn't be illegal.
This considers only academic knowledge, and specifically only that knowledge that can be assessed in a standardized way.
Such knowledge makes up a very small fraction of success -- though you could make the argument that students' ability to acquire and demonstrate it probably correlates with success much more than the knowledge itself.
Second, why would you want to go to college with a bunch of other kids who just meet some bar on some measure of academic capability? At least in the US, college is most kids' first experience living away from home for an extended period of time. Wouldn't you want to be with driven individuals, interesting conversationalists, performers, intellectual peers across other disciplines, etc.?
Why limit admissions to "book smarts"? Why is that the most fair?
As such, in a university setting, I expect to be surrounded by people who are curious, who value learning, who are building up the skills and knowledge to excel in their chosen fields. In my own country, universities are usually specialized, and further divided into highly specialized 'faculties', which has upsides but also downsides. Still, even in the American college system, I would expect all of my peers to be interested in excelling in their chosen fields of study, whether that is music or sports or medicine or computer science. I would not expect to be surrounded by people who are just ok at academic knowledge but are really driven social workers, or by people who have basic knowledge in a lot of fields, but no advanced knowledge at all.
Do you truly believe you can measure this with a single standardized exam?
I’m not even sure you can measure academic knowledge with a standardized exam, let alone all the other attributes we agree we’d like to see in peers at university.
One thing is for certain: the SAT is not that exam.
That’s true, I don’t. I come from a middle-class background (at least, what counts for middle class in CA)
> Using the SAT in college admissions means that admissions is biasing -- at the margins
I agree with you here. However, removing the SAT requirement does little to improve the status quo. I’ve personally seen parents do things like move their kids to different schools so that a bad semester grade wouldn’t stick on their transcript, and of course, rich parents funding/helping establish startups and nonprofits that their kids claim they founded/ran for college application purposes. The truth is, having a good GPA or resume is more likely to get you in, and some of the more impressive/rare “accomplishments” that students like to tout in their activity summaries and essays are simply unavailable to lower income students, making it harder for them to appear competitive to an admissions committee.
Yes, but admissions officers know this, so I don't think the inability of students whose parents don't found startups for them to play with is really that much of a hit.
In reality, if all else is equal, a student from a low-SES background has a much better shot at admission -- because doing all those upper-middle-class college-signaling things is much harder when you're not upper-middle-class, and thus much more impressive because it indicates a level of ability above and beyond the equivalent upper-middle-class student.
I posted about this elsewhere in the thread, but admissions committees are not actually trying to optimize over the set of various typical middle-class college-aspirational things -- they are trying to optimize for success & fit both in college and post-college, so they'll students in the incoming class will become good friends, have fond feelings, and bring both financial and prestige rewards to the university.
They don't care -- and shouldn't care -- who can perform the motions the best.
I came from a lower middle class background, not white if that matters, did next to zero studying, paid nothing to prepare and got a 96th percentile score. The extent of the preparation I did was practice tests held at my high school.
However, I didn't come from the background you described: living in poverty, unable to afford basic needs, parents or guardians infrequently present, with unsteady income.
I had a roof over my head, never worried about where my next meal was coming from. The only thing I'd might have in common with people of that background is that my parents didn't graduate elementary school, parents were paid less than min wage under the table, and that I grew up on welfare.
That's my background. From where I stand I'm skeptical that tutoring really skews the results to the extent that wealth is primary thing measured by the SATs. I had no tutoring and only relied on the education I received from public schools. That said, the quality of public schools still correlated with wealth. But school quality being linked to wealth is a much bigger problem than standardized testing. And it doesn't change, ultimately, how much education the test taking has absorbed from school. Removing the SATs as a requirement may or may not make things better. But doing it and claiming that you're making things better for those that are less fortunate seems like a stretch when the root cause is that they're receiving a poorer education in the first place given that if you fixed that, this problem of standardized testing would benefit the rich to a much lesser extent.
> But school quality being linked to wealth is a much bigger problem than standardized testing.
Agreed. The UCs can't solve this problem on their own, though. The UCs have different admissions criteria for undergrads than private selective colleges, in my understanding -- they can't treat the SAT as an optional indicator, it's part of a score.
Grades? Ability to complete college successfully?
Selective colleges are looking for students who (a) meet a baseline for academic success there, and then (b) succeeded with respect to their opportunities, in ways that suggest future success is likely.
Success looks different in different environments, and that includes different levels of wealth, access to institutions, community, etc. Much of the stress of this competitiveness comes from large wealthy metro areas and their suburbs, where the access to opportunity is generally huge.
How do you demonstrate exceptional ability to succeed in an environment where you can't sneeze without hitting success?
I'd rather take my chances on an unfair system with open rules than on an unfair system with opaque rules.
I think this is a perfect summary. No system is perfect but at least the flaws are consistent and well-known, not subject to the whims of a particular group on a particular day.
>> opaque rules has an advantage in that it's more difficult to game the system
You are right that with opaque rules, you cannot study your way into college anymore -- because it will depend on who you know, which charitable boards your parents are part of, which civic organizations you support, how good your sports videos are choreographed, how good an essay writer you hire for your college application, how genuine your weekend "service trip to country x" photos look, etc. When you get rid of tests and replace them with opaque measures that is the sort of gaming you end up with -- and that seems like a far worse type of gaming.
I'm comfortably middle class, studying way into a good college from below poverty. Prep books on weekends for 2yrs. I realize it is hard, it isn't fair -- but I dont want to replace that system where my children have to buy their way into college -- which is where we'll end up. I'm not wealthy enough to donate a building. I'm not connected enough to land on a charitable board with a college administrator. My kids have to study their way in.
Now...i'm hearing there is no way to study their way in. Rather, we need to figure out how to please each individual school's decision makers. Is that really what is more fair? Is that what the 99% want?
I think you've hit on a key point which raises the obvious question: Who benefits?
Dismissing standardized testing reduces people who do well at tests, either through skill, speed, or rigorous study.
What groups, experiences, or attributes does it select for?
Thats the thing -- it becomes a way for admins to select whomever they want, using their own secret/opaque criteria which may well be biased, unfair, unjust.
In New York City, where I grew up, there has been a huge backlash against entrance examinations for high school. The official stance is they are discriminatory because people could prep for the exams, but a quick survey of the schools reveal "too many" poor Asians were getting in. People who could really afford prep schools were going to private schools and boarding schools. Poorer, but intensely driven students wanting to succeed, were prepping for years for the public school exams and "overrun" the schools.
The city chose only three high schools to focus for desegregation (interestingly, the three which most Asians). Original talks were to move to a "leadership based application system" -- as if people really have opportunities to demonstrate "leadership" at age 13 or 14. Leadership here is a euphemism for "being connected" or "wealthy."
To be fully frank, I admit the tests are not fair. A truly fair system would have as many good schools as students wanting to attend them. But we dont have that -- so instead we all compete for a handful of spots that poor students can afford while the truly wealthy buy their way into wherever they want. It isnt a perfect system. The test may not be perfect -- but perhaps then we should try to improve the test, or understand why some students can/cannot do well on the tests -- rather than creating a secret system where a few people get to decide which poor students get good schooling and who gets to remain stuck in the economic prison for another generation.
Disclosure: I studied for years for these exams, went to an application based NYC high school, and went from below poverty line to well into top 1% income in the span of 8yrs. The schools matter, enormously.
Not really, most evidence points to private tutors as we know them having a very small impact on test scores. On a large study low-income students controlled I recall something like +30 points and something like a non-statistically-significant difference for high income students. The income difference was still its usual +100 points.
The thing you and pretty much everyone else conflates with private tutors as Americans conceive them is cram schools, which are a different beast entirely. If you just punch private tutoring into Google Scholar you'll see they're really talking about cram schools whenever a large effect is observed.
Should the University of California system reward parents who coerce their kids into a childhood-robbing experience they will pay dearly for later?
Who's going to investigate, "Do kids who endured cram school emerge healthy?"
Does that sound like a good policy, cram school?
We don't want our regular education system to resemble a cram school. We regularly rally against teaching to the test. We can't have it both ways. Cramming is not valuable, it simply isn't, it is only valuable in a very narrowly delusional, zero sum worldview but it's not a policy.
This is not to say I would agree with the fact that the SATs/ACTs are good. To be fair as far as exams go these exams have a lot of loop holes. I have seen people who can't speak proper English get perfect scores on these exams by memorizing hard words. The mathematics section is a bit of a standing joke in many Asian countries. It is almost impossible for a high school student to get less than the full score in many countries as it would not be possible to pass other national/international boards.
In all honesty, rather than scrap ACT/SAT, one probably should review these exams. It is possible for one to design an exam such that private tuition doesn't give too much of an advantage.
That wasn't a thing when I was applying in 2005, is it recent? I just applied directly to the colleges I wanted, filled out the forms myself with some help from my parents.
"Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli agree to plead guilty in college admissions scam"
* College applicants have, by and large, no real-world experience that demonstrates their competency. There are obviously exceptions, but this remains true of the vast majority. Most job applicants have at least some experience, so it's easier to weed out the fruit loops by taking a look at their resumes. There's a lot more high-quality objective information by which one could compare job applicants than college applicants.
* Job applications typically narrow the pool to a few candidates to be seriously evaluated. College bureaucrats have thousands. It's more realistic for a potential employer to perform more "holistic" evaluations then for a college to do so simply because of problems of scale. The interviews used to fill most of this role, but bureacrats have gradually shouldered that role: my parents had interviews of two hours for most of their colleges, which seemed to be common for that day. I had interviews of forty-five minutes when they went well, and this was true for my peers as well. Now I guess some administrator sits in a dark room and by the light of a single candle looks up your extracurriculars to determine your zodiac sign and thus your fitness for the school, or whatever garbage they came up with.
Where do you usually see the subjective, interview-style evaluations break down in favor of whiteboarding? Big FAANGs that have a scale that makes that sort of individual evaluation difficult and may necessitate whiteboarding. Universities hit this same problem, only with the added concern that there's even less consistent basic competency: about one third  of students require remedial courses and therefore probably ought not to have been admitted to college. So there has to be at least some metric by which they can consistently compare.
On the other hand, I applied to a bunch of "elite" schools that all had black-box "holistic admissions" processes. What frustrated me wasn't that "Oh no, now I can't game the system; drat!" Rather, I didn't know what to emphasize for best effect because they didn't make what they valued clear. I had enough stuff about which I could write that I could pick and choose, and I wasn't sure which I ought to pick. This made things like ordering my resume and writing my essays more difficult. You know who probably could have told me what to write about and how to order my resume, though? A fancy, expensive college consultant. Making the process more opaque only helps those who literally pay people to sit around and figure out how to game the system.
A high school guidance counselor?
Black-box holistic admissions processes are nothing new, most selective institutions have overtly had them for decades even if they didn't tend to use the word “holistic” to describe them (they have weighted a wide range of factors beyond GPA and test scores, and have never announced how most of them were measured or how they, once individually measured, were aggregated, but advising on the that has been—since sometime I started preparing to apply to college in the late-1980s—a major function of high school counselors.
An expensive college consultant could tell you who and how to bribe to bypass the admissions process applicable to more plebian applicants, though.
I was home-schooled, so not a great option. Also remember that the public schools in some places are pretty awful, and they just don't have experience getting students into those schools because almost none ever apply.
I don't think anyone does that; “objective” and “holistic” are on orthogonal axes. The opposite of “holistic” is “narrow” and of “objective” is “subjective”.
You can have narrow or holistic subjective criteria, and narrow or holistic objective criteria.
> Sure the SAT/ACT does favor students whose parents had enough money to afford private tutors,
Well it favors students for whom the cost (both financial and opportunity) of taking it multiple times isn't an issue, even if tutoring isn't a factor.
So the conclusion is that there's probably a cultural bias going on for kids who are underprivileged that goes away once they enter the workforce if given the opportunities.
Many people seem to take as given that college admissions should be about "objectively" choosing the most deserving students academically and/or extracurricularly. That is not a complete picture.
At the top schools, there's a big focus on constructing an incoming class with students that are likely to succeed both in college and post-college, such that the class is likely to include future stars in law, medicine, business, academia, etc., likely to be able to contribute money or prestige to the institution in 20 years -- these correlate with high school academic performance, for sure, but they also correlate with who your parents are, what types of activities you choose to engage in, your internal initiative and knowledge of yourself, etc.
Of course, there's no way to know all this in advance, so admissions officers use a very noisy process to try to guess. That the SAT is game-able with money makes it a less useful indicator, because it starts to correlate with wealth rather than academic ability. Wealth already has plenty of proxies that are visible in the application file, so having another indicator of it is not super helpful.
> it also meant that if I didn't have a private tutor if I could get a perfect score my chances increase
Sure, if admissions officers ignore everything else they know about you -- which they don't!
The intentional net effect being something like a pool of unpredictable ever-changing criteria that pokes at person from all sides to see whether or not they're a polished turd.
I think if it worked it would introduce a lot of chaos, but it would also be (hopefully) extremely difficult to game.
I think it's naive to assume that this is an accident.
This is _exactly_ the reason to make admissions more subjective: to give a small group of people carte blanche to pick and choose candidates based on race, origin, etc.
This way the annoying statistics about affirmative action that look plainly racist just... disappear.
Another fine piece of work brought to us by the good intentions paving company.
Sure and if you never played basketball ball but hit a 3 pointer on your first try 100 times in a row you could play for the golden state warriors.
I was the first in my school to go to a top 10 college in over 20 years, so they made a pretty big deal out of it. I was also one of two people in the entire university from that particular state during my freshman year with the other student having gone to the top private high school in that state (~30k/yr for tuition).
In other words, hard work and performance on the ACT was a huge contribution to being accepted to the schools I did, although I do contribute athletics as an equal contribution since it gave me the benefit of early admission. Then again, if the SAT was a requirement, I probably wouldn't have been accepted because I didn't do nearly as well on that one.
Personally, I think it should be a combination of academic performance and other more "holistic" measures. The particular university I went to really emphasized being a well-rounded person and are known for rejecting students with perfect ACT/SAT scores because their application didn't reflect any particular drive, motivation, passion, whatever.
Just because you can test well and got good grades does not necessarily mean that you'll thrive in such a competitive environment and make the contributions that the school loves to flaunt. They also want to maintain their graduation rate and don't want people that dropout or transfer from getting overwhelmed (or being entitled because that attitude got stomped out quick). Despite being someone that has always thrived in such a high pressure environments, I admit that things got overwhelming for me pretty often and affected my mental health to a great degree. The stress and imposter syndrome took a major toll on my mental health, academics, and athletics. It got so bad for some that they didn't even survive (suicide).
I didn't do nearly as well in university as I had hoped in any facet, but I don't regret it because it made me stronger and ready for the world. I'm happy with the success I've found after years of working hard even after graduating. However, I do often wonder if I would have been more successful at a school that was less high stakes.
For those potentially applying to college and as cliche of advice as it is, I advise really emphasizing personal hardship and how you've overcome it in your application essays. Basically, demonstrate that you recognize your weaknesses and overcome them and also demonstrate that you don't turn away from obstacles.
Give the admission board the perception that you are constantly progressing, not going backwards or maintaining your current progress, and that nothing is going to stop you from doing so. Excellent academic performance is often good supporting evidence of that, but good grades and test scores by itself doesn't necessarily prove that determination. You should provide as much evidence of that as you can, whether it's extracurriculars, succeeding despite social and economic disadvantages, major life events, natural disasters, etc.
Generally speaking, students at top universities are intelligent and hard-working. Their talent is not normally distributed, and this is increasingly the case as admissions becomes hyper-competitive. Not to mention, students self-select into courses to which they are most suited and likely to perform well.
If all students in a particular class master the subject matter, why should some students be forced to receive failing grades?
Should the purpose of higher education be to rank students on increasingly marginal criteria or to...educate?
Failing grades are not handed out this way, if you demonstrate a basic understanding of the material you pass. But actually getting an HD, the top mark, is only for the top 20% or so from each class.
It means in Australia for a technical subject if you get First Class Honours you can get into a PhD program and get a scholarship and get through in 3 years if you work hard.
You can still educate perfectly fine while making the assignments and tests very difficult. Do students attend schools to get A’s or to get educated?
If that university has a better fount of students then an A at that uni is better than an A at another uni. Don’t worry, institutional reputation is already a thing, so that’s not a problem. Grade inflation means you have no idea how poorly of well someone is because everyone gets a “participation” score.
> Grade inflation means you have no idea how poorly of well someone is because everyone gets a “participation” score.
As I argued above, a high GPA is not a "participation" score, it is an achievement score. It just happens that achievement at top universities is generally high across the board.
And frankly, giving everyone an A is a far more desirable outcome than pitting students against each other in an artificially competitive and high-stress environment where the alternative is group study and collaboration.
Happens at lower universities as well. Turns out the cause isn’t “high achievement” but instead it’s entire generations of students that treat anything lower than an A as a failure and subsequently pressure admin to make the prof back off.
Under 2.0 or 2.2 GPA (depending on your school) and you are on academic probation. If you have an academic scholarship, you must maintain at least a 3.0 (B) average....
Which seems fair.
The true average is somewhere between 2.5 and 3.0.
Why are we lumping minorities into one group when we know that many minority groups score better than average on standardized tests than the general population. Asian Americans, Nigerian Americans, Jewish people, etc all do very well.
In a world where the wealthy have ever more advantages in college admissions, standardized tests serve to level the playing field. I grew up in a very wealthy town and many kids I knew whose parents spent large sums on SAT tutors never improved their scores because they didn't have the intellectual horsepower.
Just because college administrators and others feel uncomfortable that certain groups continue to do better than others on the SAT is a horrible reason to get rid of the test.
wish I could upvote this more than once. Rigorous testing and merit based examinations have a reputation for being elitist but they're the exact opposite.
There's some benefit for people coming from higher social classes, but the difference in intellect is much smaller than the difference in networking, cultural attitudes or any other vague criterion that tests are replaced with.
At any country you look that has truly high mobility in education and has managed to produce a broad, national high quality system there's almost a Leninist attitude towards discipline and putting people through examinations. It's much harder for social privilege to be sustained in these institutions than in some kind of essay writing competition. It's also I think the reason for the pretty strong diversity of the military.
Also good to know that, in California, whites are a racial minority.
I can't wait to see how California designs new tests against racial bias. Will there be different tests for different races? And, their alternative is simply failing to develop a test, after which the methodology will presumably be to have humans make subjective determinations about other humans.
In that case, regardless of race, they would look at your parents' income, or the kind of school you went to and the district it was in.
Where more of the abuse is is in parents getting disability diagnoses to get extra time on the test. This same technique can be used to game grades though too.
This is completely mistaken.
Just taking a couple sample exams will net you almost 100 points as you don't waste time figuring out how to take the test.
Simple prep will net you 200+ points right off the top.
For example, generating a correct answer is almost always way slower on these kinds of tests than quickly removing wrong answers. Knowing where you are on the statistical curve and knowing how the test is catered toward tripping your precise cohort up is extremely important when you have a binary choice remaining.
And that's before you start doing actual systemic improvements like memorizing a couple thousand vocabulary words or drilling basic arithmetic so you don't make simple, stupid mistakes.
You don't go in cold for the SAT. They give you enough free practice resources that anyone serious about taking the test should get those 100 points. Maybe to a practice test every weekend for a month leading up to the test. It's the tutoring where you have to invest a lot more time and money for more marginal gains.
There are many people who come from communities who have sent precisely zero people to elite schools, and they have absolutely no idea how to prepare or how to be a strong candidate despite an abundance of information available on the internet.
Most people assume that straight As and a really good SAT score makes someone Ivy material, and that’s why they are often confused when folks who meet these criteria don’t get in.
A lot of people do.
The mere idea that test taking is a skill which can be honed like any other is an upper middle class social marker. In the case of the SAT, striking out wrong answers is FAR faster than generating correct ones unless your are really good. That's a test taking skill.
My parents were both school teachers and even they didn't know all that much about the SAT--they knew what it was and made sure I ran some practice tests. My guidance counseler (normally a totally useless position at most schools), however, was an old dude who was used to the fact that children of steelworkers had no clue how to prep for college.
He pulled my parents (and others) aside in 9th grade (almost 2 YEARS before you take the SAT for real) and said: "Here is the schedule of tests (PSAT, SAT), etc. and the order in which your child needs to take them. Note that the scholarship score is TWO TIMES THE VERBAL plus the math. Here are the sample test resources your child needs. Here is the vocabulary resource your child needs--that defines your scholarship chances. Your child needs to drill math to not make stupid mistakes. Complete these at an even rate for the next couple years and your child will qualify for most scholarships and have no issue getting admitted to any college below Ivy level. If you really want to go to an Ivy, you need the scores, but we'll need to find you an alumnus to advocate for you in order to boost your chances."
That man created a LOT of first and second generation college graduates.
1. 50 points per section (M/V) just for being familiar with the test is common for folks in the middle range of scores — say 400-600 per section. The improvements are less at the extremes.
2. Very basic test taking strategies are worth another 20-30 per section for pretty much everyone.
3. Actually study/review of targeted vocab and math will typically yield another 20-100+.
4. I don’t have as much data on this, but I personally think practicing sitting down on a Saturday morning and taking a high stakes test for x-hours in a sterile environment also increases the score 10 points or so. It reduces anxiety at a minimum.
I’ve seen scores go from 10xx-14xx with a 200+ point improvement in both skills over the course is about two months.
I don't know either, but there is something going on that seems to be time sensitive. Comments that hit quickly after posting sometimes receive significant downvoting while the same comments a couple hours later get significant upvoting.
Something is going on. I just don't know how people benefit from it. Are they trying to create a "history" ahead of the election cycles to whitewash their reputation or something?
I really wish that upvote and downvotes had your username tied to them in a visible way. I couldn't care less if random noname downvotes me if someone important upvotes. And, if someone I respect downvotes me, that's going to certainly get me to think a bit harder.
Generally tests are structured so that if you know the material, you'll have plenty of time to spare. But if you don't know the material, it's unlikely you'll figure it out even if you're given twice as much time on the exam. It's not like they'll spend that extra hour teaching themselves the trigonometry they neglected to learn in the weeks/months before the exam.
I had one friend who I suspected of having a bogus disability. He had rich parents and got double-time on exams. But it's a miracle he graduated at all, he seemed to always be on the brink of flunking out. I think that had a lot to do with his video game addiction that stopped him from studying much. He was a reasonably bright guy with a horrible work ethic, and I really don't think the extra time on exams helped him at all.
I don't have a learning disability, but I'm a pretty slow reader. I cheated on a section of the SAT by finishing another section with lighter reading and going back to the unfinished one.
The test is also designed with time pressure in mind.
Fortunately, the external examiner didn't, and required them to add points to everyone's marks. I ended up with slightly over 100%.
If there was a checklist that you'd go down to help the University system implode "remove testing for academic aptitude" is probably right before "all objective measures of performance are banned". At that point who the hell can justify paying $150k+ for a "degree"?
Edit: pasting this from my below comment.
I think people are misinterpreting my comment as suggesting elite parents would've been against this - far from it. They absolutely wanted this because now it's easier to hide middling academic aptitude from admissions boards at elite schools.
To be clear: Removing this test helps elite parents, and hurts those who can't afford spending money on "summer experiences" abroad or poverty tourism or whatever.
It turns out, they called all their members "president" so they could all declare they were a "president of X" on their resume and could talk about leadership. Creative way to game the system for $0.
It is far easier to influence extracurriculars and grades with money.
I went to an expensive private school. Nobody there (nor their parents) would have opposed eliminating the SAT and replacing it with essays and activities.
In the past it HAS been embarrassing if that admit came with a low or super low test score. So no question are the elites happy about this.
From the article it seems like the UC are going to develop their own test, that will further divide those with resources that can study and prep for multiple tests and those that cannot.
The issues with the diversity in the UC system are rooted in a much deeper level of inequality in society that probably cannot be fixed with these band aids.
Pointing out that people who are doing well now tend to do well in the future is not a useful observation. My original point in this discussion was that removing the tests actually hurts people who are not doing well now, since they have fewer opinions to game the system and having an empirical and objective test of their abilities is the best (and cheapest) opportunity to stand out.
Are you sure? Because I think the "elites" or very wealthy will be perfectly fine with removing objectivity. In fact, it helps them.
This hurts working class and poor applicants who don't fit the, shall we say, "background" that admissions offices of elite universities are looking for in 2020.
As time goes on I have less and less respect for credentials from elite institutions because of this.
>This hurts working class and poor applicants who don't fit the, shall we say, "background" that admissions offices of elite universities are looking for in 2020.
The test was a way out, especially for gifted kids from poor backgrounds.
Speaking as a graduate of the UC system, I doubt "elites" are clamoring to get their kids into it.
I graduated third from the bottom of my class from High School and had enormous difficulties with a school system that was adversarial to me throughout my childhood.
In my public elementary school my principal deceived state officials to try to put me into special ed. She was admonished after it was revealed she hid my Iowa standardized test scores from state officials.
In my public high school, my teachers and administrators were given my elementary school file and treated me similarly. I was forbidden from taking AP classes or even taking the exams with self study. After I graduated, my high school refused to release a copy of my file to me, saying they had destroyed it mere weeks after I received my diploma.
Standardized tests were the one opportunity I had to demonstrate I didn't fit my grade point average or what I'm sure would have been derogatory information provided by my public school to any university I applied to.
I think a student talking about that during the application process would actually be considered for admission.
Especially if I did not have a standardized test score, a public school file documenting it, or anything to back up that claim other than recollections of my own and my father's.
Seriously, considering stopping donations this year - I'm a UC alumnus and this makes me sad.
When I entered university, the head of admissions had been forced to accept the job. He didn't want to be head of admissions (for physics, our subject).
He used the opportunity to do an experiment. Normally you need advanced Maths with a decent grade to get onto a physics degree. He abandoned that and admitted about 20 people without that. He also admitted people with lower grades than usual. Hs basically made offers to everyone who applied. So our first year class was almost twice the size it was meant to be.
He was my personal tutor and asked me to help host admissions lunches for prospective students, so the subject of admissions came up.
He laughed and said he admitted everyone because as far as he was concerned, if you were too dB to pass first year you'd be kicked out then and if not you deserved to be in second year whether you're grades at 18 were good or not.
Of the 20 people without maths, at least 15 failed or transfered to other subjects in year 1. But a few graduated.
So he gave them a chance and they took it.
I know the logistics make it impossible. But I actually think letting everyone who applies in and letting the end of term/semester/year exams decide who stays is much fairer than single tests or one off interviews of lists of (parentally supported) extra circular projects. Imagine if MIT or Harvard said "Everyone is welcome but only 10% of people pass the first year".
There is this famous thing professors say to engineering students in the first lecture:
"Everyone please look to your right and to your left. [Statistically speaking] only one of you will be able to graduate in the end."
This is why engineering schools are so tough. I heard from some american universities that the master programs are (if you have gotten over the hurdle to get in) rather "easy" and that they want people to have good grades (because it would look bad if top university students have really bad grades I guess?).
Whereas in Germany you have to survive. And especially the good university make it as hard as they can to get the cream of the crop.
(Part of this is related to the change from Diploma to Bachelor/Master because for the Diploma people did not have to care about grades and Universities made exams so hard that people would barely pass them: "4 gewinnt").
In the US, however, I think attrition is a metric that contributes to University rankings. So if you accept people into a course you want people to graduate. In such a scheme, the attrition rates are high.
I went to a public state school and they straight up bell curved the grades for most classes at the TA level so that a certain number of kids were always going to get a D/F both of which are not passing grades and thus requiring the student to either retake it or switch majors.
I believe this is what they do in France. This was explained to me years ago, so i may have this totally wrong, but in France, if you get a baccalaureate at school, you have the right to attend your local university. There is no admissions process. As a result, there are far too many students. So, the universities make the first-year exams as tough as they need to, and kick out anyone who doesn't pass. Effectively, they use those exams to do admissions, just a bit late.
France also has some strange elite universities, the grandes écoles. They have selective admission. To get into those, you first do khâgne , a couple of years of preparatory study, followed by an entrance exam. If you squint, you could see this as letting everyone have a go at the first two years, and then only letting a few progress. To be honest, thinking about the French education system makes my head hurt.
Similar but perhaps more straightforward are the UK foundation years , for example, Durham's :
> Foundation Programme courses are fully integrated elements of Durham University degree programmes. Students who successfully reach the progression standard by the end of the foundation year automatically gain entry to year one of their registered programme without further action or application.
The difference being that foundation years are optional - in your example, the people with advanced maths would not have needed the foundation year, but those without would have. Accordingly, they are still quite rare, because in the UK, people pick their A-levels with a view to what subject they want to study at university, and we hate social mobility.
And, of course, in the world of MOOCs and online universities, coming real soon now, it will be easy to admit millions of students to the first year of a course, as long as all the teaching in that year is highly scalable - broadcast lectures, not interactive classes; multiple-choice exams which can be marked by machine; lab work done in VR?
At least with SAT poor students still had a chance if they did well on the test.
My HS's GPA wasn't out of 4, for example. Also if you ended up in Mr. Boris's class instead of Mrs. Solomon, you basically automatically lost a whole letter grade.
The amount of resources they had that I didn't have at my good, public high school was astounding. It was really 'stand out from the crowd' kind of resources that are probably going to become even more important with the removal of SAT/ACT.
A lot of these "good state-funded schools" pushed people to specific A-levels that looked good to universities, and had coaching on the university interviews and entrance exams (not to mention a much higher standard of teaching). These schools regularly had 100+ students a year get into $GOOD_UNIVERSITY. In contrast to my school that 2 people go in my year and none some years, and and couldn't even work out which entrance exams I needed to be entered for (which they had to do on my behalf).
I don't agree that the SAT is helpful though. These kind of standardised tests measure ability to prep far more than they measure intelligence. In my experience the universities are actually putting quite a lot of effort into making their courses widely accessible (setting lower entrance grades for people from less good schools for example). The problem is really with vastly uneven quality of teaching at the high school level which means that some students really are a lot more prepared for the courses than others (even if that doesn't reflect base level intelligence).
Somehow, the school still got ~10% of each year into Oxbridge; i suppose that's the power of selective admissions.
Where I went to uni we simply have two different buckets which the schools can change around a bit, but still keeping both. For for my program 66% of students were selected by grade and 34% based on a national test with normalized scoring.
Extra curricular activities or whatever isn't really a thing ever, because it can't be measured. Well, until you are padding your resume for that first job.
If it's the test fee, just allow a retake for free like a gas station smog check offer.
Or, a college can bucket grades and test scores separately and just take whichever is higher.
If the new UCSAT displaces the SAT, UC gets to add an extra $100m to profits and $XXX million in 'expenses' to get lost in the UC System. And they get more control over the selection process.
Currently, the UC’s provide a lot of weight to holistic applications. These often favor privileged kids, as they have access to far more opportunities than others. For some, the SAT provided a sort of leveling field in that regard.
Still, it wasn’t perfect, but I fail to see how what they come up with will fix the issue.
Of interest is that all of this is taking place in a state that has banned affirmative action.
I think these "holistic" admissions do the opposite. They allow a small group of college administrators to pick which "backgrounds" they want to make up the freshman class each year.
They then accept a certain number for every lower achieving school, due to the 10% requirement (is it still 10% these days?). People then game the system, with the wealthy, moving to a poorly performing school, and the child will be ranked very high in their school, so it is easy to get into the highest rated UCs.
I will also disagree that the SAT is a leveling field. The reason is that in the high achieving schools, the child is sent to private tutors and classes every single year of their lives starting in elementary school. The parents will spend $1k+/month on activities as well as academic classes. That type of knowledge seriously adds up.
For the disadvantaged, they _could_ but the steps are a lot steeper, and most don't make those steps.
This sentiment is littered throughout the comments here. Do we want colleges to admit the brightest, most academically ready 18 year olds? Or to simply admit equal percentages matching race and income levels?
You even seem to admit the student would be better off with those extra classes.
>That type of knowledge seriously adds up.
Personally I'd have no problem with someone smarter than me getting into a college over me... It's not as if you can pay a tutor and then go to bed while they do the work for you, you still have to put in time...
Previously, the price of bribery was unknown. The economics of such a trade, illegal as it was, were murky. With the unmasking of the scheme, including possible angles, and now a known bargaining price point, the whole admissions process has become much clearer.
Covid19, throws a wrench into everything, including college admissions. But these other mechanisms of entry are still in place.
I suspect that the admissions departments are about to get a lot larger. Especially with the ability to use Zoom for everything now.