In the interest of disclosure, I recently accepted a nomination to be the Virginia representative to the national assembly for the ACT, which, some argue, is the only competition for the SAT. I don’t think that makes me biased, since I’m also a member of the Collegeboard (motto: “You’ll be a member if you know what’s good for you.”), and since I’m generally a fair-minded and unbiased person (did I mention that George Mason University is the best college on the planet?).
Actually quite a few of my colleagues, admissions and guidance officers, are REALLY negative about the Collegeboard, even many who are members. They don’t come right out and call them the evil empire, but they do tend to all hum the Star Wars “throne room theme” every time a CB representative walks into a meeting (that’s the one they play for Darth Vader, although I’m sure you all knew that).
Unlike those colleagues I generally think the Collegeboard (Motto: The most important educational organization…EVER) tries to do good in the broad sense, and was probably trying to do so with their new score choice policy. As I wrote a while back when they announced this new a policy, in a nutshell, you can choose which of your scores to send to different colleges and universities. The ACT has had this for quite a while, and for most of that time Collegeboard (motto: We didn’t change our policy – you just misunderstood us) bashed that policy, but, now that they have it they seem to like it fine. Even though I’ve written about this before, the anxiety level over the change that I’m seeing on list servs, web sites, and in the media leads me to share once again.
I don’t really have any problem with the policy, but you should know two things. First, it’s unlikely to make ANY difference to your admission. As I’ve written many times, colleges and universities will use your best scores, and use the best portions from different sittings (so English section from one time, Math from another, to get your best total score). Also, the few schools that REALLY care about seeing all of your scores are STILL MAKING YOU SEND THEM ALL. In other words, there are a group of schools that won’t let you use score choice, so it really doesn’t matter. For the sake of simplicity I call these the “So incredibly uptight universities that if we placed coal under their seats we’d all have diamonds” or SIUUTIWPCUTSWAHD schools, or “annoying” for short. At the other end of the spectrum you have schools that know that you’re more than a test score, many of which not only embrace score choice (despite the reality that it’s largely meaningless) but even go so far to offer score optional admissions. We can call these the “Schools that actually care about” institutions or “George Mason University” for short.
My buddy Brad MacGowan, Guidance Newton North High School (MA), wrote this to the admissions list-serv: “I think that if you asked adolescents if they would like to be able to “hide” some of their SAT scores to “reduce student stress and improve the test-day experience” their first reaction would be an emphatic “YES!”. I also think that if you asked counselors who work with adolescents on a daily basis, and have been through one or more admission cycles, if this will “reduce student stress and improve the test-day experience” you would get an emphatic “WHAT?”. The consequence of this new policy will be more testing (for those who can afford it), more test prep (for those who can afford it), and more stress (for everybody). But that doesn’t matter because it also means more revenue (for you know who).”
In other words, there is SOME possibility that the Collegeboard (motto: Why take a nickel if we can get a quarter? Educationally, of course), added score choice because the SAT was losing some market share to the ACT, or because score choice encourages students to sit for the test more times (ok, just really the wealthier students that can afford more tests). I believe, however, that the Collegeboard was trying to a good thing, since if this was just about making money they would be better off just adding another mandatory writing test. Be seeing you.