Why are standardized tests such a big deal in college admissions?


The Mirror reporter

College application season is a stressful time for many and one bad test could determine acceptance into their dream school. However, some colleges are starting to change their application system for the better.

The four big parts of an application are transcripts with school grades, ACT or SAT scores, academic resumes and essays. In a traditional admissions process, admissions officers look at grades and standardized test scores to determine if the student is fit to attend their institution. Academic resumes and essays are secondary and distinguish between close applicants or explain blotches in the two previous areas. Many colleges and Ivy League schools still use this method, but it is a flawed system.

Putting such a huge emphasis on standardized tests for acceptance into college is problematic due to the fact they are an unreliable measure of student performance. A Brookings Institution study found that 50 to 80 percent of year-to-year improvements on standardized test were temporary and had more to do with random fluctuations than long-term learning.

Some students fail to exhibit their full potential on these types of tests caused by test anxiety. This results in inaccurate, lower scores. It will be harder for a person with numerous co-curricular activities, fantastic essays and a solid high school academic career to get into certain universities due to low test scores with this method of review.

Many innovative colleges, like the University Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, have transferred from a traditional admission process to a holistic procedure. ThoughtCo describes holistic admittance policy as, “…not simply looking for students with good grades. They want to admit interesting students who will contribute to the campus in a meaningful way.”  

The holistic method views each piece of criteria as equal pieces that make up the whole student. It looks not only at academics, but also personality and what the person has to bring to the college and the future work force by looking at co-curricular activities, letters of recommendation, how much interest the student has demonstrating in the school, essays and possibly an interview.  

Holistic processes allow for a margin of subjectivity by admissions officers to determine if a person can bring more to their campus than what they exhibited on a high-pressure standardized test. The holistic approach should be the gold standard for college admission because it allows colleges to view applicants as people, not numbers.