YWP: Julia Correll

Why test-optional is the best option

Julia Correll, 17, Colchester

After four months filled with six cancellations, I sat in a silent, stuffy gym and finally had the quintessential high school experience of sitting down for 180 minutes to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test. It was October, a month before my first round of college applications were due, and a few months after I had given up on studying. Around the country, many students experienced the same struggle. Despite lockdowns and quarantines, the College Board reported that 2.2 million students still managed to take the SAT at least once in 2020. In a world where a global pandemic had brought all events to a standstill, ceaseless police brutality had caused racial tensions to boil over, and natural disasters had ravaged the South and Southwest, standardized testing should have been the least of students’ worries. Yet colleges resisted going test-optional until the last minute, and some – such as Florida state schools – never went test-optional at all, due to the reliance state scholarship programs have on standardized testing. Although many colleges consider standardized testing to be an essential part of their application, colleges should no longer require test scores because, historically, they disadvantage applicants of color and applicants from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. And, as the 2020-2021 application cycle has demonstrated, colleges are capable of carrying out the admissions process with a test-optional policy.

The greatest predictor of standardized test scores is not stellar grades or a long list of extracurriculars, but family income. Students whose families make more than $80,000 tend to do far better on the SAT than those whose families make less. Unfortunately, wealth distribution runs along racial lines, as white families in 2019 had the highest median family wealth at $171,000, compared to Black and Hispanic families, which had $17,600 and $20,700, respectively. This inequality means that students of color, who may have to work in order to support their families and who often lack access to tutoring, practice tests, and other important resources, struggle more on standardized tests. While 55% of Asian-American students and 45% of white students scored over a 1,200 (at or above the 74th percentile) on the SAT in 2019, only 12% of Hispanic students and 9% of Black students achieved the same. These disparities in scores reveal that by requiring these tests for applications, colleges hold students of color at a disadvantage. In order to make the college process more equitable to students of a lower economic status and to students of color, colleges should adopt a test-optional policy…

Excerpted from original. Read complete essay with citations at youngwritersproject.org/node/40393


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