“At the end of the day, the real problem seems to be the scarcity of opportunity for higher-education success.”
by The New Yorker
The contributing writer Eren Orbey recently wrote about how the pandemic forced colleges and universities to experiment with test-optional admissions and how the College Board developed a new digital SAT. This week, the newsletter editor Jessie Li spoke to Orbey about the importance of the SAT, inequality in college admissions, and what it was like to take the new digital test.
The SAT feels like such an integral part of the college-admissions process—some students even have parents who enroll them in rigorous after-school test-prep programs just so that they can ace the exam. But the SAT is also partially a relic from another time, something that has evolved as times have changed. What’s your sense of its importance as a factor in college admissions today?
I was surprised, in my reporting, how quickly executives from the College Board were willing to say that the test is lower stakes, as they put it in their press release. They really do seem to be advertising the digital SAT as a different kind of tool, focussing on its power to help certain students stand out rather than on its potential threat to students who don’t score well. But there’s still so much pressure on the other side, from high-school administrators and test-prep tutors and others. I think the SAT has become a kind of cultural relic with a lot of weight and meaning that is perhaps separate from what the College Board is actually intending.
To me, the most interesting question in this new moment is whether the messaging from the College Board and from test-optional universities will affect the way kids look at the test. Because there are so many new doubts now, like, If I don’t submit an SAT score, are colleges going to assume that I did poorly, or will they assume I didn’t take it and directed attention elsewhere? There isn’t a lot of consensus. That has created a different kind of panic…
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