By Tyler Kwon
The impending doom of college application season has begun to hang over my head like a thirty foot tidal wave, and in light of the stress that’s taken over my household in recent weeks, it seems like that wave is ready to crash.
Having grown up as a pretty self-motivated student, I’m not accustomed to the test score-obsessed parasite that has taken over my once laid back mother’s body. While my approach to college applications is a bit more laid back, my mom thinks that with such a competitive applicant pool, I need to strive in every single avenue possible, which includes my test scores.
There enters the College Board, the non-profit company responsible for creating such fan favorites as Advanced Placement (AP) classes, and more notoriously, the Scholarly Aptitude Test (SAT). Originally meant to help level the playing field of college admissions, test-based admissions opened the doors of higher education to students who didn’t come from prestigious private schools during the 20th century, according to the Atlantic.
Today, though, the SAT falsely poses as a grand equalizer by favoring students from privileged backgrounds. Not only is the test very closely tied to students’ wealth and other related privileges, but it is driven by an organization more set on earning profits than on promoting equal educational opportunities, making it an inaccurate and unjust representation of students’ intelligence.
Many high schoolers are familiar with local test preparation centers like Elite and Oxford, which charge up to thousands of dollars in preparation for a single test. This difference in resources shows, according to the Washington Post, SAT scores steadily rise as the income of a student’s family rises. Factors like race, PSAT participation, and parents’ education also played a major role in the scores of 2014 SAT-takers.
Despite clear issues in the fairness of the SAT, and hence, its ability to accurately gauge a student’s intelligence, the test culture it has helped cultivate has become an integral part of the college process. Whether students agree with the test or not, their only alternative is to take yet another standardized test, or risk becoming unmarketable to many colleges throughout the country.
“It’s frustrating because many of us know that they dominate the test market and make a lot of money from pushing different resources. But then again, what other option do I have?” senior Elizabeth Claypool said.
Despite being a non-profit organization, the College Board has become the centerpiece of a multi-million dollar test-taking industry known for its pricey test fees and services. In the 2013 fiscal year, its president and CEO David Coleman made an astounding $690,854 and over $40,000 in benefits, while many of its other executives have salaries in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Its focus on profits has seemed to overtake its initial purpose of equalizing the college process, unjustly launching millions of American students into a state of near constant and frenzy, and reinforcing the myth that our test scores are the grand determinants of both our “scholarly aptitude” and scholarly futures.
College admissions can and should be a reflection of a student’s merits and accomplishments. While a high test score on the SAT might naturally reflect college readiness in some, for many others, it’s the result of immense economic privilege, endless studying, and the mere accumulation of test-taking skills as opposed to genuine growth.
In light of the glaring flaws of the College Board system and SAT testing itself, the College Board launched a new version of the SAT in 2016, fit with updated vocabulary sections and content that would better reflect real life, adult skills.
Whether these changes will be enough to reverse a flawed system, though, is still uncertain.