Category Archives: College

The last thing anyone wants to read right now is another article about how COVID-19 has impacted higher education. Whether it is the debate about whether tests are really optional or how meaningful those unexpectedly online AP exams will turn out to be, there are a lot of strong opinions out there. One factor just starting to generate very strong opinions is the fate of students looking to start their college educations this fall. While some campuses appear optimistic about restarting, there are plenty of experts out there who think that it might well be too early in September for students to return to campus and physically attend classes. The prospect of an entirely online semester doesn’t sit well with many college students. After all, many of the things that make college such an experience involve living in close quarters with equally uninhibited peers. Also, let’s face it, social distancing…

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In May 2020, in the midst of the most bizarre semester American college students have known in generations, the regents of the University of California voted to phase out the SAT and ACT tests as a requirement for admission across all nine of its undergraduate campuses. They took this step much further than other schools, who chose to allow test optional admissions for the high school class of 2021 due to inconsistent testing opportunities. UC adopted a position of two years of test optional followed by two years of test blind despite the findings of its own task force that said that test scores were often a better indicator of college success than grades. In doing so, they overrode the unanimous vote of faculty to keep SAT and ACT scores as part of a holistic admissions process. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Too bad New York might follow the same ill-advised…

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After weeks of hearing speculation, misinformation, and consternation about the future of the SAT and ACT in admissions, I need to share my thoughts on the matter of test optional policies. This article was first published on LinkedIn but found its way back home. COVID-19 has changed the world in more ways than we can count. Certainly, the American education system will never be the same again. Not only have we all become intimately acquainted with the agony and ecstasy of online learning (can’t say teaching because not everyone is doing that) but the traditional path to college seems to be meandering through uncharted territory. A number of schools have explored test optional or test flexible admissions policies, but the current crisis (and a couple of cancelled test dates) seem to have triggered a flood of interest in removing test scores from the admissions equation. But if we accept the…

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Spring break is typically a time that students and families take to the road for their college search.  The weather is relatively predictable (i.e. not snowing), college campuses are full of students, so the potential peer group is visible, and you might even have a set (or two) of test scores that help guide you toward possible, realistic options.  For the Class of 2021, just about all of this is out the window. While it is not snowing, campuses are empty and not receiving visitors, you may not have had a chance to meet with your school counselor to get a list started, and with all the test date cancellations, it is not unusual for you to still be waiting to take a standardized test.  This can feel immobilizing. Please do not feel helpless. There are a number of opportunities to use this gift of time in unanticipated ways.  It…

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A writer in the Wall Street Journal posited an interesting if not provocative question recently, asking “Is It Fair to Award Scholarships Based on the SAT?” Predictably, the arguments against test scores focus more on questions about student diversity and unequal distributions of wealth and resources. They do not, however, seriously address the idea of merit, which is to say a certain standard of academic accomplishment according to which merit aid is awarded. Perhaps a reticence to acknowledge the elephant in the room in this–and countless other think pieces decrying standardized testing–makes sense. After all, for all the problems with the SAT and ACT, the alternative is much worse: grades are even less reliable and more dependent on privilege than test scores. Is the idea that high school grades cannot be entirely trusted a surprise? Presumably, a student’s grades represent a quantitative expression of academic output over the majority of…

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Like most educators, I’ve worked with a healthy number of twins, triplets, and other siblings very close in age. The variation in how these students approach the idea of working together always amuses me: some siblings would never think of studying apart, while others crave just an hour or two a week respite from their brother or sister. And that’s just for test prep. Imagine how much thought goes into the question of whether siblings that have progressed in lockstep–and often matching outfits–from nursery school through high school want to attend the same college and university. Then imagine those same important questions from the position of the college admissions office… Many experts assert or at least infer that being a twin or sibling doesn’t influence admissions decisions. Yet, the Common App and other applications inquire about siblings, sometimes even asking if a sibling is applying to the same school. Legacy…

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