According to the NYTimes, Middlebury is making the College Board’s SAT Exam optional. And all I’ve got to say is: it’s about time. Bowdoin and Bates are perhaps the most famous liberal arts colleges that have long snubbed the SAT but a growing number are jumping on board with Mount Holyoke and Hamilton joning in this year. The consensus is among these colleges is that dropping the SAT can help the school attract more diverse applicants and show prospective students that the college has the ability to consider individual applications personally and thoroughly. Sure, the schools can pretend to talk about how the SAT may give the wealthy an unfair advantage but really it’s about the applicants. More students will apply without the SAT and that gives each school a shot at grabbing some of the top high school talent around the country while increasing their rejection rate (good for those rankings, making the college seem more selective).
But as the College Board reports that the new exam has resulted in a 7 point drop in SAT scores this year, Time has picked apart some of the College Board data suggesting that the test is actually gotten more fair closing the gender and socio-economic class gap. With an essay section, girls are catching up to boys. Without analogies or quantitative comparisons, those students coming from families making less that $20,000 a year are doing better and it’s the “middle-class and rich kids who account for the much-reported [7-point] decline.”
So, is Middlebury still doing the right thing in making the SAT optional even if the SAT is becoming more “fair?” Yes. The SAT still does not account for the fact that students have different strengths in learning and showing that learning. It’s still a test that relies heavily on the visual. Plus, to be able to sit for three and three quarters hours is not condusive to showing what you know, it means that kids just want to get it over with. It is worth continuing to monitor the data in the following years to show whether the SAT will go the way of the dinosaurs or re-emerge as a force in college admissions.