The college admissions process hits parents hard during the tough adolescent years, adding a complex task at the tail end of the difficult job of raising teenagers. The new SAT, hitting the streets in the spring of 2015, appears from this vantage point to potentially simplify college testing, and ease parental anxiety, though it is not expected to be an easier test.
First, the scoring on the new test goes back to the old 1,600-point scale with which many of us are so familiar, with the highest scores of 800 in math and on what will now be called “evidence-based reading and writing.” The essay is no longer required, and will only be chosen by students with a particular strength in this area. (I suspect the most selective colleges might require it, as they do the ACT with writing.)
The new SAT seeks to align itself with the Common Core— to test “a core set of knowledge and skills that are essential for readiness, access, and success in college,” according to David Coleman, president of the College Board. In this way, it is sounding quite a bit more like the ACT, which tests school subject-based skills. Students will have heard that the new SAT’s vocabulary will not longer test knowledge of “esoteric words,” but rather will assess knowledge of words that are commonly used in college courses, like “empirical” and “reductive.”
Parents need to know that high school grades are the best indicator of college success, and are far more predictive of success than standardized test scores. Parents can check http://www.FairTest.com to find a list of colleges that are score-optional: students may choose whether they wish to submit test scores, without prejudice, as part of their applications at these institutions.
Chris Boehm, Director of Admission at Albright, a FairTest college, commented, “85% of applicants submit scores … Of those, 95% submit SATs and 20% ACTS [some students submit both]. The SAT is reinvented every 6-8 years…It will be interesting to see what colleges and universities do. Without previous data, how can a college or university claim that a test is a valid and reliable predictor of college success?”
In my own educational consulting practice, I have seen the some colleges can see past weak testing in the face of a strong transcript of courses and grades. A client of mine this year had rather low SAT and ACT scores, but had exemplary grades, courses, activities and citizenship. She was accepted at six out of seven of the colleges on her list, including University of Delaware and Gettysburg, but turned down at Penn State. (A caveat to this would be the “most competitive” category of colleges where lower scores generally will knock a student out of contention, even with and excellent curriculum and grades.)
Students looking for merit scholarships will also need compelling SAT/ACT scores, along with strong grades, to win significant non-need grants. Recently, another student with whom I worked won $20,000 in an annualized merit scholarship to George Washington University with a 1980 combined SAT score, and strong grades.
Most parents are keenly aware of test prep, and may feel pressured to have their children prepare for the ACT and SAT. The new SAT seeks to reduce the dependency on test prep by providing free online test prep. Many educators, like myself, are skeptical that the test prep industry’s importance will be reduced any time soon. (Locally, group test prep is available at Penn State Berks during the school year and in the summer. Often high school teachers offer out-of-school test prep, as well.)
Sarah C. Reese
Informed Educational Solutions