Standardized test scores shouldn’t influence an application

So long as standardized test scores are not weighed too heavily, students should submit their scores

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Ana Pietrewicz/Daily Collegian

By Anna Dao, Collegian Columnist

If a university claims to take a holistic review of all applications, then a single SAT score should not negatively impact any given application.

Last month, the University of Massachusetts announced its decision to make standardized tests optional for its prospective first-year students, effective Spring 2021. Given the disruptions COVID-19 caused families, the University is choosing to review all applications, regardless of whether or not students send in their test scores.

During this unprecedented time, I understand and even applaud the university’s decision. Many students are unable to access the resources to take the SAT at this time and this move reduces the stress that some families are experiencing. Additionally, standardized testing has been widely contested in the past for being “inherently biased in favor of affluent, white and Asian-American students” New York Times writer Shawn Hubler said.

As an Asian-American student who attended a primarily white high school, I did notice that many of my more affluent peers were able to retake the SAT multiple times, paying the $52 registration fee repeatedly until they got a score that they deemed satisfactory. Even I, coming from a single mother, one-income household, enrolled in a SAT-prep program and paid a hefty tuition in order to match my peers.

Why was a standardized test score so important to all of these students? Students have been trained to associate their intelligence to a score, creating a bias towards students who didn’t have the resources to score higher. But what if colleges claim to take a holistic approach to every individual application? In this case, a score shouldn’t hold so much weight.

Don’t get me wrong: I still get nightmares where I oversleep, break my perfectly sharpened number two pencils and forget to put batteries in my TI-84 calculator right in time for the math section of the test. I am very aware of the fact that I let myself be defined by a number. In fact, I still truly believe that having my SAT scores helped boost my application in the admissions process. In my case, my GPA in high school was average at best, but my SAT score put me in a higher position than if my academic success relied solely on my grades from nearly half a decade ago. In any admissions office that looked at my entire application as a whole, not just my GPA, sending in a score in the 97th percentile proved that I had the potential for more.

Larry Cheung, head of a Boston-based SAT Prep program, Tigerway Prep, when asked in an interview about the new test-optional policy, said that “there are many skills tested on the SAT that can be applied to real life. Aiming to be successful is also optional. Our mission at Tigerway will continue to be to make our Team Members [students] more successful in life, whether it is on the SAT or in other areas.”

While personally I believe that GPA and SAT scores are not a direct indicator of success or intelligence, I do think that a high score on the SAT teaches a certain set of skills that would benefit in academia such as analytical thinking and problem solving.

My point is this: the test-optional policy works so long as the university is truly able to take a holistic review on an application. I think students should submit their scores because it would only benefit them to do so. UMass boasts its holistic review process and so ideally, no matter what score an applicant has, submitting would either benefit them or not affect the university’s decision. If they held a lower test score, then the holistic review process should consider what factors may have impacted the student’s score. If they scored on the higher side, then the process should note the applicant’s skills. Submitting a low or high score should not be an extremely weighted factor in an application if a college is truly taking in all the factors equally.

So if you choose to take the test, submit your scores. It’s not your responsibility to beg a university to see you as more than a number.

Anna Dao is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @annadao19.