Dethrone the College Board

Applying to college is a very individual process. Each student makes choices between a big or small school, city or rural location, and countless other decisions. However, there is one universally dreaded aspect of the application: standardized testing.

I can personally attest to the months of work that are required to achieve an acceptable score. At one college information session I attended, a student asked how he would know that his SAT score was high enough for him to be a competitive applicant. The admissions representative responded that he should stop once studying for standardized tests approached the time commitment level of an extracurricular activity. Frankly, I was extremely upset at this admissions representative; how could a school who requires the SAT or ACT and two subject tests assume that applicants can just “stop studying” once the time commitment is too high?

In a world where Naviance’s comparative scattergrams display just two data points to summarize a student, it is almost impossible to ignore the pressure to succeed on standardized tests. One of the worst parts about this process is how an entire industry of tutoring companies and testing services like the College Board profits off students’ misery. Often, students feel compelled to spend the money to take these tests three or more times to get their scores up, incentivizing testing companies to curve tests harshly. Additionally, when the College Board subjects students to unfair testing conditions (including recycling previously administered tests or accidentally giving students extra time), students are scared to protest, in fear that the scores they have worked so hard for might be cancelled.

In light of all of this corruption, I often wonder why colleges don’t work together to create their own standardized test, one that is more fair and economical for students. Colleges don’t profit from the College Board’s tests anyway; so why should they prop up an industry that completely contradicts their frequently cited values of free thinking and equal opportunity? Strict standardized test requirements only show a commitment to the upper classes who can afford private tutoring.

I understand that colleges are in need of a universal metric with which they can compare students. Hotchkiss students would probably benefit from a chance to show how hard we have worked for grades that may come easy at other schools – but current standardized tests just don’t allow academically talented students to shine. Instead, they reward students who are willing to sacrifice extracurriculars and homework time to complete mind-numbingly boring practice tests.

The main portion of the SAT continues to consist of a lengthy multiple-choice assessment. Colleges should embrace the technology of the 21st century and create a test that allows students’ writing and problem-solving skills to shine, not their ability to choose between A, B, C, or D. If millions of AP tests are graded each year, each involving essays and free-response questions, surely a system can be developed for similar open-ended questions on a college admissions assessment test. And who better to develop it than the very institutions who rely on the service? It is honestly irresponsible for universities to sit back and let the College Board fatten its wallet while students must bear the burden, and I urge colleges to assess how this practice aligns (or mis-aligns) with the values they love to display on impressive pamphlets and flashy promotional videos.