Fair warning: This has to be my longest piece in a while (if not ever), so I recommend you take a break every few paragraphs, so that you can get to the end.
Throughout some of my other posts I mentioned how grateful I am to be done with my higher education, because I am not sure if I could do it in this day and age. (It makes me sound like I am a million year old…) Every now and again, I think of getting another degree for fun (vs. for work), but if I was to actually do it, it would probably be one of those online courses that they now offer.
This week, once again, I was reminded of how lucky I am. A couple of days ago, University of Chicago, which is a prestigious school, currently ranked as the 5th best in the US, and the 9th in the world (That is higher than Yale!), announced that they will be eliminating SAT/ ACT scores from their admitting requirements. While UChicago is not the first college to do away with those, it IS the first one among 24 top research universities in the country.
It is my assumption that those of you who do not know what SAT or ACT is can gather their meaning from context, but I would like to give a brief explanation anyway. There are two standardized tests, taken by high school kids in hopes to get into college. SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) has been used since 1926, it takes 3-4 hours. Of course, it has changed throughout the years, but it is ultimately designed to test your writing, critical reading, and mathematics. Last year, more than 1.7 million kids took it.
The ACT (American College Testing), is a bit younger. “Born” in 1959. It takes about 3.5 hours, and it tests the things you hopefully learned in the following courses: English, Math, Reading and Science. There is an optional Writing section, as well. More than 2 million high school graduates took this test in the year of 2017.
What I think would be interesting to know for you, my fellow writers, is that while both tests contain an optional writing section, it does not add to the overall score. What is the point, then?
While you do not have to complete either test, a lot of teenagers choose to do both, in order to maximize their chances of getting into the college of their dreams. Since schools accept either one of the scores, taking both tests gives you the ability to pick the “better” score when submitting your application.
If you are interested to know what are the actual differences between these two, seemingly identical, tests, you can take a look here.
Applying to college reminds me a bit of applying for a job. Both processes are unfair, and a lot of schools/ workplaces miss out on some great talent. I am aware of those shortcomings in such areas, but unfortunately, I do not have many good alternatives. There are some “ideal” ideas that I have, but I know that they are not easy/ realistic to implement. It is my belief that everyone deserves to be heard, and using just a score, or a resume to pick candidates is very faulty.
However, just because the processes that we have in place are not working, does not mean that we should replace them with something else that will not work, either. That is the trend I notice -> decide thing A is not working -> pick the first idea that comes to mind (thing B) -> replace thing A with thing B as soon as possible, without thinking twice. The new must be better than the old. Even if it is not.
Some people do that, because at least they are doing something. Right? I am not sure. I am conflicted on that. My goal is not to be a pessimist and turn every idea down, but I observe what is going on, I know a bit about humans and how the world works, I analyze things, and so I am able to roughly estimate the success of something. Personally, I do not like replacing the old with the new (if I think the new will fail), because I prefer to deal with the known negative sides, rather than the still unknown, negative consequences. You might have seen me talk about progress and evolution, when I state that we should be moving forward/ up, instead of to the side. Many think that change propels us ahead, but most of the time, we just take a step to the side, or sometimes, we even get thrown backwards.
This is starting to get off topic, so let me circle back to the SAT/ ACT and the University of Chicago. While they will still accept the traditional test scores, they do not consider it a requirement. Instead, one can send in their school transcripts and… an audition tape. It probably is not formally called that, but that is what it is. It enables you to “sell yourself”, to convince them to accept you into their school. The article also mentions “nontraditional materials” one could use to add to their application. It makes me wonder what that entails. Maybe I could submit my blog?
The Vice President, and Dean of Admissions at U. of C. said that they did not like the fact that one score defined a young person, and I agree. That is a very nice statement to make. Overall, I was a well rounded student with good grades. I worked hard for them every year for many, many years. When I found out that those would be pretty much useless for college, my heart sank a little. However, that was the reality – one test, one score. All or nothing.
On the other hand, I knew that not all grades from all teachers to all students were fair. Sometimes they were inflated. Other times, needlessly lowered. With that being said, it did not surprise me that the education system wanted a more unbiased tool, which would allow them to put students side by side and be able to fairly determine who did better. But then, you could be an amazing student, but have a bad day when taking the test, and your hopes and dreams shatter. See? Every option has a negative. None are perfect.
Jim Nondorf (VP and Dean) goes on to say that the new rules are meant to be “fair to every group”. Are you thinking what I am thinking? We will see in the next couple of paragraphs.
We are not going to debate whether standardized testing is a good, or a bad thing, because we already know not everyone is good at “test taking”, we can have a bad day, and the test score does not showcase everything we know. What we ARE going to debate is “audition tapes”. U. of C. used to perform in-person interviews for those applicants who chose to do so, but now, that will be no more. Now, you will have 2 minutes to pitch yourself on video. Two minutes to prove you belong in college. That you belong in their college.
Why is everything about selling yourself nowadays? It is a competition for Likes and shares and re-blogs. You might as well not exist, if you do not have an online presence. Which employer, or school would want that. Right? (Sarcasm.) But that is the reality. They look you up, they cannot find you and they get suspicious. It probably means that you do not know how to use a computer. Disqualified. It probably means that you do not socialize (i.e. work well in a team). Disqualified. To me, this is mind boggling. Now, you also have to sell yourself to get into a school.
First of all, I thought people liked the score thing, because that allowed them to remain somewhat anonymous. In my opinion, these tapes will leave a lot more room for discrimination. Who will judge them? Will we now only admit good looking girls for office work, and Indian men for call centers? Is it going to be a committee of people watching these tapes, or will it be one person, who is bored out of their heads, and then just randomly picks and chooses? The school openly talks about their lack of diversity, and that they are trying to fight that. That is awesome news. However, if you are a white, preppy looking male, you might start getting worried, because you might just not get in.
After reading the news piece, I wondered to myself what I would do if I was now submitting a college application. I wondered if doing a headstand would be impressive enough, and it took me to a darker, sadder place. It made me realize that it is not fair for introverts/ timid people. Throughout my life, I met people who are very comfortable with public speaking, and people who fall apart just thinking about that possibility. While I do think one should try and overcome their fears, I am aware that it might not be as easy as it sounds for some people. And it is not even the fact that you have to video yourself (high focus on looks) talking. Not even the fact that who knows who will get to see it, judge, and make fun of you. To me, it was the content that stomped me the hardest. Coming up with ideas for this make, or break project would be so stressful.
Now, imagine that you are a good student. That you take notes, go to class, listen, do your homework, etc., while your classmate is the total opposite – skips class, pays no attention, copies your homework, etc. And then it is time to submit your college application. You find out that he/ she wants to go to the same, top school, your eyes are set on. And you laugh. Together with other classmates and teachers. There is just no way. And then, admission letters come, and you get rejected. And they got in. They hired a makeup artist, had their clip videoed at a professional studio, with appropriate lighting, etc. They said they could perform miracles. You, on the other hand, videoed yours on your phone, in your room, saying that you do well in school and you would love to get in. Too humble. Now your future gets a slower start than theirs.
With all that being said, I wonder why they do not do away with the ACT/ SAT altogether. Why keep it around? How can you successfully compare a test score to a 2-minute-video-clip? And if test scores are a thing of the past, then what is the whole point of studying in the first place? Education starts in college, so why bother with earlier years? One might not even have to learn how to read and write anymore. Just use emojis and individual letters for word in texts, then shoot a cool video, get into college and win at life. Is this the future we are looking for?
What do YOU think about all that?
Are you good at taking tests?
Do you have an idea for an audition tape?
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