The pros and cons of using test scores in college admissions

Everyone who has been in the scope of college admissions is familiar with the daunting tasks of facing standardized tests one way or another through the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) or American College Testing (ACT). These tests are a gigantic part of college admissions and can determine whether you are accepted or denied to an institution. 

The COVID-19 outbreak has made many traditional college operations come to a screeching halt, resulting in many institutions allowing prospective students to apply to schools with or without standardized test scores, but the question still remains: should schools still consider test scores during the pandemic or waive them altogether? One must consider the pros and cons of the entire situation and why this choice should be entirely up to the student.

The pros of waiving these tests first include the alleviation of SAT/ACT prep costs. Standardized test preparation is a multi-million dollar industry—specifically “between $400 million to $700 million”—consisting of study books, test preparation classes and counseling to better equip students for maneuvering the logistics and strategies of the tests. Registration fees for these tests are also a significant financial factor that students must cover.

Another benefit of waiving test scores is the alleviation of stress that students may feel when preparing for these tests, which have potentially harmful repercussions of “increased commitments for psychiatric and anxiety issues” due to increased anxiety levels and the possible outcomes at stake for their overall future. Most students take these tests between their junior and senior years in high school, which is one of the most demanding times in a student’s academic career. When this is factored out, students could use this time for other academic pursuits such as applying for scholarships, attending college tours and working and perfecting college essays. 

The cons of waiving these standardized tests should also be considered. Although “scores alone are no longer enough” to get you into a “good” school, one must still consider that GPAs vary from school to school and sometimes do not reflect the standards and demands set at a higher learning institution. While these tests may not display what a student is capable of, they do offer a window into how a student performs under pressure in a time-taxing environment.

Another disadvantage of waiving these tests is the possibility of academic ambiguity with “no real metric of consistency in place” to decide whether a student is fit to join the population of their institution or not. Standardized test scores have held much weight to the college admission process over the years and have influenced overall college rankings, accessibility to jobs and qualifications for various scholarships. If this system is no longer brought to the forefront as the way of accepting students into schools, it would mark “the beginning of the end of our obsession with high-stakes standardized tests” that formerly established the trajectory of those in higher education. 

This pandemic has welcomed the reality of a new normal regarding many once established traditions, including the handling of school admissions. This has been administered by the flurry of decisions being made by executives to eliminate the intimidation of college admission testing altogether as a long term decision. It even leaves the question of why standardized tests have had such a quintessential position in the world of higher learning and academia (this can be answered by socioeconomic status, financial leverage and other potential advances). 

I believe that there should be an option for students between waiving the scores and taking the tests. Taking the tests would give students extra credential weight alongside their application, but shouldn’t hinder other students’ chances when they also have so much to offer. Although this can potentially invite partiality, this option can cater to both those who can provide the necessary financial means for the tests and those who cannot. Students should take advantage of this time as a whole due to the drastic changes that are happening in our country and our world.

The practice of standardized testing is not disappearing entirely from the college admissions process anytime soon. Nevertheless, students should take this opportunity and advantage of proving themselves to an institution without the leering limitations of test scores and challenge themselves to view themselves as more than their score, but what they can bring to the table when looking for an institution to further educate and cultivate them.