|If anyone asks why I am a college counselor, I think of this chart taken from US News and World Report in 1990. I graduated Haddonfield HS in 1987 with near-perfect SAT scores and had a great GPA. As the 11th of 12 kids, however, I did my college planning all on my own. I thought the Ivies were too expensive, so I opted for a full ride in the Rutgers College Honors Program. Turns out it was a great choice, but it was completely unguided. Had I known it was so easy to get into the Ivies, I would have applied!|
November 23, 2020
Jeff Selingo has a blog post that I think deserves your attention as he answers a lot of questions about how many – and what kind of – students are actually submitting test scores this cycle. He also speculates on how the SAT and ACT will continue to be used in future application cycles. I’ve excerpted most of it below, but you can go to his Revue.com page here to read the whole thing.
The Future of Testing
November 23, 2020
Among the many industries that will be thankful for life to return to some sort of normalcy after the pandemic is the standardized testing industry, specifically the ACT and SAT. The question, however, is what the new normal will look like for the tests. Over the spring and summer as the ACT/SAT canceled tests and hundreds of colleges—including highly selective ones—joined the test optional movement (at least for this year), I asked a group of admissions deans to forecast the percentage of test scores they’d end up receiving this year.
- Many were flying blind—this would be their first year without requiring tests, and as I’ve written in previous newsletters, everything in admission is based on historical trends.
- Still, most deans forecasted somewhere in the range of 50-75% of applicants would submit scores.
The numbers: In recent weeks, as applications have been arriving at colleges for early decision (or regular admissions), I made another round of calls and emails.
- Few schools want to publicly release the numbers of student submitting scores so early in the process, partly out of fear a low number might encourage a wave of applicants who have no shot of getting in.
- So far, the number of applicants with test scores is lower than what was expected.
What I’m hearing: Here’s a snapshot of the percentage of students who have submitted scores, with some context for the type of institution based on their acceptance rate.
- Private research university (<10% acceptance rate): 70%
- Public research university (<60% acceptance rate): 30%.
- Public university (<80% acceptance rate): 25%
- Public research university (<25% acceptance rate): 69%
- Private research university (<20% acceptance rate): 43%.
From the dean of admission at the final school on the list above: “We’re seeing big gains in diversity. Very pleased about that and it’s something that will make a return to required testing harder to do.“The most extensive report I got was from a large public research university with a national footprint (<60% acceptance rate):
- 59% with test scores, but big differences by residency and major.
- 56% in-state. 75% out-of-state. 43% international.
- 75% engineering. 55% business. 35% education, social work, general.
From the dean of admission at this school: “Based on what we heard from in-state privates who were test-optional, we were guessing test-optional would have been 10-15% if we had gone test optional in a ‘normal year.’ So this is about double what we expected.”What I’m watching: Florida, Florida, Florida.
- The 12 universities in the State University System of Florida, including the University of Florida, are among the few big schools that haven’t gone test optional.
- So far, the universities are seeing a 50% drop in applications compared to last year.
What’s next: Earlier this month, 30% of the students who registered for the SAT were unable to take the test because of testing center limits or closings. That number was running closer to half earlier this fall.
- As we enter 2021, more high school juniors than seniors will be taking the tests. If their tests are canceled in close to equal numbers to what has happened this fall, colleges that went test optional for a year will have to make a decision about whether to extend that for the Class of 2022.
- Expect the most selective colleges that are test-optional for a year to hold off as long as possible on that announcement—late spring/early summer—to see if testing returns to any sort of normalcy
Bottom line: The early numbers indicate that, in general, the more selective the university and the more selective the major, the higher the percentage of students submitting scores. Those are the institutions most likely to return to testing after this is over, along with some big publics with overwhelming numbers of applicants or where there will be political pressure to require test scores. But we’re probably talking perhaps dozens of institutions, not hundreds.
Selingo’s analysis is in line with what I’ve been hearing and reading, so I would agree with most of what is written above. Again, you can read the whole thing by pressing this link. Here are some of my thoughts that pertain to our New Jersey client base: The SAT and ACT do not change as the wind blows. These tests are designed years in advance. They are absolutely unforgiving when it comes to content knowledge: if you are not a good reader or have faked your way through your Algebra 2 class, you’ll be in for a big comeuppance on test day. These tests are unwavering in the expectations of students and will not adapt to accommodate the current education climate in America. This is the same message Foley Prep tutors are giving to our students. Just yesterday I met one of my small groups of SAT tutees, holding their feet to the fire: “I know you’ve gotten good at dividing and conquering your teacher’s assignments. You cannot do this with the SAT. In fact, you should be applying as much energy into mastering the SAT as you do in gaming your schoolwork. The SAT will be THE most reliable criterion that colleges will use as a way to see if you’re ready for college.”
Schools should be open
Among strong students here in New Jersey, prepping for the SAT and ACT will remain very important. It’s no secret that many students of all levels are learning the wrong lessons with remote learning. Even the strongest students are putting just as much energy into how to game/subvert the learning process as, you know, actual learning. For years, Foley Prep tutors have become used to not just reinforcing concepts learned in school, but TEACHING them. My tutors like Mike say, “we need to get these kids back to school” because they are behind in math and simply have not read or written enough essays to have a better command of the English language. To remedy this slide in academic discipline and content-area knowledge, parents of students looking at competitive colleges should build in academic tutoring support and plan for a longer timeline of prepping for the SAT and ACT. While test-taking strategy is built into every tutoring session, Foley Prep tutors are content experts who enjoy the challenge of teaching students the grammar, math, and reading skills that may have been missed or lost in the shuffle.
Black Friday Sale 10% off until November 30th
I’m very happy that people are taking advantage of the Black Friday Sale. Yesterday was one of our biggest enrollment days ever. Foley Prep has never been a volume business, but my team is building from my 25 years as a director in college admissions and test prep to bring the best of the best online and in our various locations throughout New Jersey.
Thanks once again. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Ron Foley, M.S.
Doctoral Candidate, Rutgers University
Tenured Professor of Mathematics, Middlesex College
Member HECA, NJACAC, NACAC, NCTM, MAA, NAS, AMATCYNJ
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