The Optional SAT

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St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont is the latest American school to join those that don’t require the SATs for admission. According to an article in the Burlington Free Press:

Students applying to St. Michael’s for admission in September 2011 may choose whether or not they want to submit scores from the SAT or ACT, the college announced Tuesday in a news release.

“This makes official something we’ve always done in practice — and that is, focus on a holistic review of the student — his or her high school record, including strengths of program selected and grades in those courses,” said Jacqueline Murphy, SMC director of admission. “Those factors have always been more important than test scores.”

The SAT, long a central part of college admissions, is often attacked by critics for being culturally biased and the sort of thing that clever students, and wealthy parents, can manipulate. Indeed, the SATs were originally designed to predict freshman-year grades, something they don’t do at all well.

But while Murphy may very well want to “focus on a holistic review of the student,” Washington Post columnist Jay Matthews explained last year why some colleges might have another reason to make the SAT an optional part of the admissions process:

Schools that made the SAT optional might see that as a way to improve their ranks. Students who decided not to submit their SATs or ACTs would presumably have lower scores. If they weren’t counted, that would raise those colleges’ SAT averages, an important part of the U.S. News ranking formula.

Right, because if the SAT is optional, only students with high SATs will submit them. The school’s average SAT will therefore increase. Crafty.[Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer