Opinion: A holistic college process is necessary

By JAZUI MEJIA

CollegeBoard suffered through two grueling years, but alas, high school juniors are taking the Scholastic Aptitude Test once again. As students bubble in their information on their registration papers, they chat amongst themselves, many admitting that whatever score they receive on the exam, they will not be submitting to colleges. 

If the pandemic brought students one benefit, it was the test-optional phenomenon where universities now give first-year applicants the option to not submit their SAT if they do not believe it will reflect their strengths as a student. All University of California schools and California State Universities officially do not require SAT or ACT scores and private institutions vary. Nonetheless, the majority of private or out-of-state schools have gone test-optional, from schools like the University of Redlands to the infamous Harvard University. If this is the case, why are a concerning number of students reporting that their teachers are claiming that private and out-of-state schools do require the exam for admission? 

Paige Williams, a senior at Redlands High School was recently accepted into the University of Redlands, yet she has never taken the SAT. “I would say that the experience of applying to colleges has been much less stressful. I don’t think that standardized testing such as the SAT should be used to gauge a student’s academic ability and intelligence” says Willaims. She goes on to argue that, “Colleges and universities should start to use SAT scores as placement tools rather than admissions criteria.”

Once again, the same question is asked: why are educators lying to their students about the college admissions process despite having access to the most accurate information and the latest resources for this matter? There can only be a couple of answers, and those answers reveal the grueling realities of our educational system. First, educators around the nation could be inheriting the responsibility of saving the CollegeBoard’s SAT as it quickly declines in popularity and need. Second, educators hold an internal stigma against this unconventional route of applying for college and are not ready to see a holistic approach to college admissions. Now, what exactly is a “holistic approach”? When it comes to college admissions, this means that college admissions officers will look closely at a student’s extracurriculars and accomplishments outside of the classroom as opposed to a student’s test scores or grades. In essence, taking holistic approaches can benefit both students and colleges, as they will be providing broader opportunities for students based on their character and how that character melts in with the culture of a particular school. 

During these crucial times when the SAT is constantly being challenged or debated, it is imperative that students understand what options are available to them and how necessary the SAT is for them personally. The same should apply to colleges, considering that looking at a student’s personal accomplishments is much more telling than any other aspect of their application. For example, an NYU applicant with a score of 1500 on the SAT can ironically never guarantee that the student understands gentrification in New York City. However, a different applicant’s involvement in a social justice-based club is more likely to comprehend not only gentrification, but a variety of other social issues on college campuses and can perhaps even be of great assistance to that institution’s community one day. If such methods of admission are practiced constantly, colleges will secure an enriched student body because their students have been and will continue making the world a better place. 

This shift in mindset should not just take place amongst college administrators, it must be promoted primarily at high schools. Encouraging AP classes and the SAT/ACT make up the majority of a school’s recommendations for college-bound students while participation in activities or community service is nothing more than an afterthought. Instead of meeting with students to only discuss their class choices, counselors should get to know their students and inform them of clubs or service opportunities that align with their interests. Counselors should also speak with students on how they can highlight the extracurriculars they are a part of on their application with more intention, Many times, students do not realize the power of extracurriculars until they reach their senior year and are scrambling to engage in any activity that will allow them to access to scholarships and grants. Nonetheless, students can only be blamed so much when schools are telling them that by solely focusing on their endeavors within the classroom, they are on the perfect path to their dream school. 

Changing systems is never an easy task, but with the concept of the “new normal” reaching the college admissions process, there is simply no other choice. Each group, be it students, teachers, or administrators all have a role to play in making the college process the best it can be. All groups should align themselves with the holistic review, inform each other on what that looks like, and feel confident in the unique abilities of each applicant. It will be a collective effort to unlearn any internal stigmas and detach from fiercely competitive academics, but it will surely result in students seeing intentional (and mentally stable) professional futures. 

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