Some thoughts on the University of Chicago’s new test-optional policy

Some thoughts on the University of Chicago’s new test-optional policy

(photo by Bryce Lanham, Wikimedia Commons)

 

The University of Chicago has become the first of the truly elite schools to adopt a test-optional policy, which will take effect for the class of 2023.

From UChicago’s website:

The University of Chicago on June 14 launched the UChicago Empower Initiative, a test-optional admissions process to enhance the accessibility of its undergraduate College for first-generation and low-income students.

A strategic initiative to address key barriers encountered by underserved and underrepresented students, the UChicago Empower Initiative has three areas of focus: the use of technology for greater flexibility in the admissions process, including making submissions of standardized test scores optional; increased financial support, on-campus programming and online resources for first-generation, rural and underrepresented students, with full tuition aid for students whose families earn less than $125,000; and new scholarships and access programs to recognize those who serve our country and local communities. Each aims to empower historically underrepresented communities in the highly selective admissions process by increasing equity and access. (https://news.uchicago.edu/story/uchicago-launches-test-optional-admissions-process-expanded-financial-aid-scholarships)

Chicago’s justification for going test-optional is similar to that of other test-optional schools, but I do think that something a little more interesting is going on here – rhetorically at least. (more…)

How to get rejected from college in 10 easy steps

How to get rejected from college in 10 easy steps

As discussed in my previous post, application inflation seems to be hitting ever greater heights. With the online Common App allowing students to apply to 15+ schools at the click of a button, it can be hard for applicants to gauge their real chances at a particular school: there’s no way to know just how many of those 40,000 applicants are serious contenders. With so many competing for so few slots, sometimes getting rejected isn’t a matter of doing anything in particular wrong. It’s just “great kid, but only if room” – which, of course, there isn’t.

That said, there are still some specific, common reasons for why the college application process can produce less than stellar results. So if you want to know what NOT to do, I offer you the following list of 10 ways to get rejected from college. (more…)

Why Harvard is wrong to stop requiring the (terrible, horrible, no good, very bad) SAT essay

Why Harvard is wrong to stop requiring the (terrible, horrible, no good, very bad) SAT essay

Harvard University has announced that it will be dropping the SAT/ACT Essay requirement, beginning with the class of 2023. Along with Princeton, Yale, and Stanford, Harvard was one of the last holdouts to require that students submit this component.

I wrote a series of critiques of the redesigned essay when the new test was first rolled out, and I still believe that it is deeply problematic – I think colleges are justified in viewing it with suspicion. At the same time, however, I believe that there are very compelling reasons for schools to continue requiring some sort of writing sample completed under proctored conditions.

Although some of my initial concerns about the SAT essay were unfounded, the principal issue remains that it is fundamentally a nonsense assignment, one presented in muddled language that says one thing and means something else. It asks students to analyze how an author uses “evidence” to build an argument, but seeks to remove outside knowledge from the equation. In reality, this is an absurd proposition: any even slightly substantive analysis of “evidence” is impossible without actual knowledge of a topic. (more…)

Putting deferrals in context

Putting deferrals in context

I’m beginning to think that high school students should be required to take a Statistics course just to be able to navigate the numeric thicket surrounding the college admissions process. As I’ve written about recently, the percentages that colleges throw around throughout the admissions process can’t necessarily be taken at face value.

Much like the overall acceptance rates that colleges release each spring, statistics involving Early Action and Early Decision deferrals require some interpreting as well. Depending on the college, a deferral can tell a lot about an applicant’s chances in the spring — or it can tell almost nothing at all. In some cases, a deferral can also act as a warning sign about the likely fate of someone’s applications at other schools of comparable selectivity; in others, it might do just the opposite. In either of those cases, an early deferral could spur you to make some last-minute alterations to your list. (more…)

The biggest lie in college admissions

The biggest lie in college admissions

It took a while to happen, but college essays have begun to be placed under the kind of scrutiny traditionally reserved for the SAT. In just the past couple of weeks, articles have appeared in both the Washington Post and Inside Higher Ed discussing the college essay industry and highlighting the vast sums of money some families spend on assistance with this aspect of the application.

These articles raise some very important questions: exactly how much help is too much? And how should colleges evaluate an assignment that some applicants have spent thousands of dollars to complete? (more…)