We had a few Old Forum threads on this, but I thought this might be the best one to link to, since I’m specifically talking about higher education admissions in this first post.

Teen Vogue had a compelling write up of while the SAT and ACT should be optional.

I don’t think I agree that these tests should be optional, because grades are a really bad measure of one’s understanding of academic material. Although I can’t dispute the eugenicist origins of the test,
there needs to be something more than grades to measure a student’s academic aptitude. Grades are swayed by local standards, amount of grunt work a student is able to do, and compatibility with teaching styles of individual teachers. I was a straight D student, but that had more to do with the school I was in not working for me, and got an 1820 on the SAT (a number I remember 5 years later because it happens to be the closest score to 1819, the year the Adams-Onis treaty was signed. Don’t pretend to be surprised.) In a situation where students apply to colleges all over the country, there needs to be some sort of national standard with which we measure a student’s mastery of a certain set of information. While I agree the SAT and ACT are held in too high regard in the upper eschelons of education, I still think we need some standard with which to measure academic proficiency, and grades will never be that.

As long as we allow states to individually set academic standards, SAT/ACT-type tests will never fill the need here. Before you can create a meaningful test, you need to know what you are testing for. There’s just too much variance in education standards between states, to say nothing of town-to-town differences in how school districts implement or enforce those standards.

For example: My high school was the second-worst (in terms of state academic testing) district in a 25 mile radius. People weren’t less intelligent. Our district just had less funding than other places and poor enforcement of academic standards because small-town football school.

Standardized tests are just as bad at determining academic performance as grades. They’re just bad in different ways.

This is actually exactly why I think we need SAT/ACT-type tests. If we worked off of grades alone, you’d be comparing apples to oranges all the time. There’s too much variation.

Yeah which is a problem with the local (and potentially national) government, not a problem with College Board. We do need to fund education more (across the board but also) in under serviced communities, but abolishing SAT/ACT doesn’t do anything to fix that. If you abolish those tests the kids who do well in school but aren’t in systems that prepare them for the colleges they’re getting into will just wind up 100 grand in debt and then failing out because their elementary and high schools didn’t (or more often couldn’t) prepare them for what they were gonna go into.

Agreed which is why they’re necessary to give a full picture of a student’s ability to do well in college.

Gotta find that study a long time ago showing that both SAT and ACT scores correlated pretty strongly with property taxes in the local areas. Rather than, say intelligence or any other measure of school quality…

FWIW, I only got a 32 on the ACT and never re-took it. RIT didn’t seem to care about the score.

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Seconding Rym. I did okay on my SAT and probably helped me with my college admissions (1360 as this was just the math and english 2 part days), but the rise of the SAT/ACT test prep industry means that performance on the test largely comes down to how much time/money was invested in test prep and how many times did you take the test (also time and money) that tends to favor wealthier ZIP codes. I do not have any studies on hand but have seen studies along these lines in the past (I no longer have free academic journal access to go find them).

Chiming in with my usual take (and it’ll be seen as utopian because nobody can dream).

Grades and prior performance should have 0 bearing on who goes to college or where they go to college.

The only things that should matter are what knowledge we feel everyone should have (like the ability to read and things that are like that) and what interests the individual.

Everyone should be able to be educated in whatever domain(s) they want.

How astute they have been, how well they’re able to jump through hoops or how much money they or their parents are willing to pay are all exactly the same: arbitrary barriers to entry and as such they should be abolished.


I can dream, I just don’t waste my time espousing my dreams :stuck_out_tongue:

My question for those here who are opposing the SAT/ACT is what do you use to measure actual academic aptitude? The SAT/ACT prep industry is definitely a problem that distorts test scores, but how do you create something that won’t have that problem too?

So for me that answer is just taking my ideology and applying it to your question.

For instance. We abolish the SAT and ACT and replace them with nothing. Anyone who applies to college gets in automatically.

Then we solve problems arising with that. I can think of a few. Like, won’t Harvard or wherever be overrun when 100% of people go there?

So, perhaps we change how admissions are done. You apply based on what you want to study, not where you want to study. When you’ve been accepted for say… chemical engineering. You’re given a choice. The lottery where you randomly assigned a chemical engineering program anywhere or you can take the option of the closest chemical engineering program to your place of residence as determined by your tax filing.

The process continues on like that.

RIT had a higher than 50% fail-out rate among Freshmen due to their generally open admission into many of their technology programs. The people coming in didn’t have enough baseline education to make it past their first year. All told a big percentage of those admissions were wasted time, money, and investment.

Eh. It’s better for people to go further away. I definitely had zero interest in staying in Michigan. The closest “computer science” programs were in-state. They also weren’t nearly as good as most other options.

Also, there is a high level of specialization. When I applied to RIT, it was one of the only IT programs on Earth. It was the first accredited one ever, and received that status a few years before I attended.

RIT had independent programs for:

  • Computer Science
  • Computer Engineering
  • Software Engineering
  • Information Technology
  • Networking

Most schools, even tech schools, don’t have all of those programs.

And frankly, I wasn’t interested in any particular program. I didn’t even choose a major until after I applied to RIT. All I chose was RIT.

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If we knew that we could have a functioning meritocracy. It’s not possible. Any system that purports to do so is necessarily going to incorporate a lot of bullshit and bias. There’s no fixing admissions to be fair. Some institutions certainly have processes that are better than others, but even the best are still awful. To achieve fairness we can only do away with the idea of admissions entirely.

If you want to attend such an institution there is no point in thinking about how the system should be changed to make it less bullshit. That is a waste of time since any such fundamental changes will not occur within your time frame. Your thinking instead should be that of a player of games. This is the bullshit system that exists. How do you exploit it for your own benefit? Do research to figure out what the admissions department is looking for, and sell yourself to them.

There’s still a limited number of seats. First come first serve?

All universities are state-funded. All people who wish to attend fill out a ranked-choice ballot based on desire. Then a lottery at each institution. If you don’t win a seat in the lottery for your first choice, you are entered into the lottery for your next lower choice that has spots available, and so-on.

Just one idea I came up with in two seconds.

According to one study I’ve seen (so take that for what it’s worth) between 20% to 50%
of incoming freshman don’t know what they want to study ahead of time. Additionally, an estimated 75% of college students change their major at least once before graduation.

I know that I had no clue what I wanted to major in heading to college.

Freshman shouldn’t be bound or held responsible for decisions that they make heading into college. Someone might take a random elective and fall in love with that subject.

Requiring freshman to know what they want to study ahead of time, and assigning them to a school based on that, doesn’t sound like particularly good system.

I absolutely concur. However the closest option I think should be available only because some people prefer to keep their living arrangements during that part of their life. And for some the ability to keep their living arrangements are the difference between doing it and not doing it.

Also just to make a piece of the subtext, text. I believe allowing people to be closer to their existing social support is more inline with the social model of disability.

Therefore I believe that having that as an option is necessary, though going away should be encouraged for those who are able.

(your other points are good too and merit a response, I just haven’t tossed them around in my head enough)

Uh… Michigan?

Yeah, Michigan only had regular CS. They didn’t have any of those other tracks in any meaningful way at the time.

Also RIT’s program looked waaaay better.

And I didn’t want to stay in the state.

This is an excellent point. Though I believe it doesn’t invalidate my idea. (though I’m definitely open to alternatives)

That said, given that all applications to college are accepted immediately. If an incoming freshman doesn’t fall in love with their major. They simply apply again with a new major in mind.

I also definitely don’t want to do away with requirements. We already have unrelated required classes at most schools for the purposes of exposing students to new fields of study they such that they may fall in love with it. We should continue to do this in whatever system we adopt. Heck I think we should think about expanding it.

I somehow personally managed to avoid chemistry as a subject throughout all my schooling. Highschool and college. I was effectively denied the opportunity to possibly fall in love with the discipline.

This won’t solve the problems of college admissions, but we should get rid of “legacy” students and athletic scholarships.

When Harvard’s admission process was before the Supreme Court, it was revealed that:
" From 2009 until 2014, the paper “Legacy and Athlete Preferences at Harvard” finds, 43 percent of the Caucasian applicants accepted at Harvard University were either athletes, legacies, or the children of donors and faculty. Only about a quarter of those students would have been accepted to the school, the study concludes, without those admissions advantages."

" Harvard Crimson’s annual survey found that among the Class of 2019, 43.2 percent of legacies and 20 percent of athletes come from households that earn more than $500,000 a year, versus 15.4 percent of the class overall. Now, rich does not equal white, but as the new paper shows, sports and legacy ties both profoundly shape the white student body at Harvard."

This whole article is basically a damning look at Harvard’s admission process, and by extension, elite schools.


Expand the number of seats. In the meantime, a lottery until 100% of demand is met.

Rich people didn’t make the lottery? Maybe they can found a wing of a school and expand the capacity.

Students who fail out of a school should be given the option of a remedial school in prep for doing that school. RIT should have a remedial college. Put it in all that space behind Golisano. 50% of incommoding freshmen can go there after they fail out to get a second shot at getting in.