Wake Forest University

Rethinking Admissions

Continuing the Conversation

Lees-McRae College Goes Test-Optional

August 13th, 2012

This year, Lees-McRae College will make the transition into a test-optional admissions policy that will allow students to decide for themselves whether they would like to submit their SAT or ACT scores for evaluation. As stated on the institution’s website, it is believed that other considerations correlate more strongly to a student’s predicted success in college. For more information on the nearly 900 colleges and universities who use test-optional admissions policies, visit www.fairtest.org/.

ACT Delivers More Details on 'Next Generation' Tests

July 30th, 2012

Last week, the ACT’s education division president Jon Erickson interviewed with the Chronicle of Higher Education about his organization’s plans to implement a comprehensive testing program for students K-12 beginning in 2014. Though there is much skepticism regarding what a program of this sort might provide as it relates to improved metrics for assessing and addressing college preparedness, Mr. Erickson cleared up any confusion on what the program is not – a “Kindergarten Career Test.”

Essentially, the series of tests will attempt to assess knowledge, basic and higher-level skills, and academic behaviors thought to be associated with success in college and careers. Additionally, close attention will be paid to students’ progress toward  academic and professional goals. The tests will be administered to students in grades 3 through 12 initially, and will later included kindergarten through grade 2.

No further details were provided about the types of questions the tests will include or the cost associated with them.

'Next Generation' ACT

July 12th, 2012

Earlier this month, ACT Inc., the creator and administrator of the ACT exam, announced plans to implement a comprehensive assessment program that it says will aid in preparing students for college, beginning in early elementary school.  The program, designed to work in combination with the Common Core State Standards, incorporates several metrics by which students are evaluated and provides more immediate feedback about students’ progress. The announcement comes just months after the College Board hired David Coleman, architect of the Common Core State Standards, as its newest president and CEO. The moves signal the continued commitment of both organizations’ to further penetrate American education, making testing a central focus.

Saint Rose Goes Test-Optional

July 2nd, 2012

The College of Saint Rose located in Albany, NY has announced its plans to begin implementing a test-optional admissions policy for the entering class of Fall 2013. The college, which ranked 39th among best regional (North) universities in U.S. News’ latest edition, said in its release that, “removing the test requirement, we let [students] know that their character, talent and individual achievements mean far more to us than numbers on a standardized test.” The college says that the policy will be a three-year pilot program, at which time the result will be evaluated and further determinations made.

For more information on the growing list of test-optional colleges and universities, visit www.fairtest.org/.

College Board pulls plug on summer SAT for gifted students

June 6th, 2012

The news media, concerned parents, and scholars have won an important symbolic victory today for our nation’s young. The College Board backed off a summer test-prep camps for rich kids that would have been blatantly unfair, but the subtle unfairness of the test, advantaging high income youths, continues. This incident has shone a much needed light on one of higher education’s darkest secrets. Standardized tests have long allowed institutions to practice social discrimination in the name of academic selectivity. It’s time more colleges and universities take a stand against the SAT in the name of a level playing field based on academic merit, not household income.

By Joseph A. Soares, Professor of Sociology, Wake Forest University

August SAT Offered to Exclusive Clientele

June 1st, 2012

The University Prep partnership between the College Board and a National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT) exposes the hypocrisy of the College Board’s rhetoric about the SAT being a fair way to democratize and expand access to higher education.

In reality, this exclusive and unprecedented arrangement – open only to students whose families can pay $4,500 for a fast-lane test prep course in the comfort of an Amherst College summer camp – grants privilege to a small, test-score aristocracy.

While summer camps on college campuses for “gifted” students are nothing new, students in this program can the buy exclusive access to the SAT, which never has been offered outside the school year. This is a very expensive test-prep camp that is open only to students who, in many if not most cases, were pre-selected for gifted and talented programs by standardized tests such as the ETS’s ERB exams (which, like the SAT, correlate highly with family incomes).

Participation in this program sends the message to these youths – and the entire nation – that they are special and deserve exclusive treatment in the form of an additional opportunity to take the SAT.  These students are flying first class to the land of elite universities in August, while everyone else must fly economy in October.

How this program makes for a level playing field for a fair measure of one’s academic merit is a mystery.

By Joseph A. Soares, Professor of Sociology at Wake Forest University

When Non-Submitters Are the Norm

May 23rd, 2012

Even as many colleges and universities have begun to implement test-optional admissions policies, the majority of students applying to these schools continue to submit standardized tests. Except at one institution – Pitzer College, where 63 percent of students this year applied without ever submitting test scores.  So what’s different at Pitzer?

First, it’s important to remember that Pitzer’s success wasn’t achieved overnight. Only in the last 5 years of its decade-long journey has Pitzer seen a solid majority of applicants decide to withhold scores.  An additional reason for this development might be the students themselves. Angel B. Perez, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid at Pitzer, reports an increasing amount of anecdotal evidence that suggests students simply like the school’s philosophy.

Another benefit of Pitzer’s decision to go test-optional is the steady growth the school has experienced in its minority enrollment, which stands at 34 percent. Students feel as though they will be evaluated within a more holistic context and not solely based upon one test score. Given these successes, some ask why Pitzer has yet to adopt a more radical approach, like that of Sarah Lawrence College, which completely disregards test scores in its evaluation – even if students submit them. Interestingly enough, the justification stands as good reasoning for the decision to go “optional” in the first place: “We don’t want [students] to feel penalized.”

As more colleges and university come on board and demonstrate confidence in the test-optional approach, will, too, a majority of non-submitter students become the norm on college campuses?

How Are You Spending Your Summer?: Narrow Your College Search

May 21st, 2012

We thought this checklist might be helpful for all rising seniors who will spend the summer traveling across the nation’s highways in pursuit of the college that speaks to their hearts.college-one-way-sign-wht While this process is exciting and daunting all at the same time, it’s important to keep it all in perspective, and in doing so, determine which aspects of college will be – and should be – the most significant factors in your decision. So here’s a few items for thought:

  • Know the college’s profile.

Whether it be the liberal arts or scientific research-focused, medium-sized or large, knowing the school’s profile can be a quick way to help narrow your search. In this instance, one size does not fit all and there are some very stark differences between colleges that you should taken inventory of when deciding what’s the best fit for you.

  • What are your academic passions and intellectual curiosities?

Chances are, if you haven’t already honed in on your academic passion(s), you’ll be asked that very question in the coming months.  What subjects or topics ignite your curiosity? Are there areas of study that you’ve yet to discover but know you can pursue in college? Most colleges won’t make you declare a major as soon as you arrive on campus, but it’s also not a bad idea to put some thought toward where you’d like to begin your adventure.  Consider the array of majors, minors, interdisciplinary courses, and study abroad programs  that your potential college offers to see whether they fit your requirements.

  • Know the college’s requirements.

Each college has different admissions requirements for its applicants. Many selective colleges specify the number and type of course credits that applicants must complete in high school as prerequisites for admission. Some colleges do not require submission of standardized test scores.  And still others ask that admissions candidates sit for a face-to-face interview. Familiarizing yourself with admissions’ checklists can save you a lot of stress as the process gets toward the latter stages.

  • Who’s teaching my courses?

Of the many questions that are asked on college tours, perhaps this is one of the most important: “What percentage of courses are taught by faculty?” The answer can provide great insight into what your experience might be like. Does the college require faculty to teach as well as conduct research? Do you want to know and work closely with faculty? Determine how you envision your learning experience to be and where teaching exists on the college’s priority list and ask yourself, “is this for me?” At the core, isn’t college supposed to be built around learning?

    New Leadership at College Board

    May 17th, 2012

    The College Board has announced that David Coleman, architect of  the Common Core State Standards, will become its new president and chief executive officer, beginning in October.  Already, the announcement has created waves across the nation’s educational landscape as many have begun to speculate what changes Coleman’s appointment might bring to the nonprofit organization and one of its best-known products – the SAT.  Over the last decade, Coleman has made a name for himself in the K-12 arena, an area that College Board hopes to penetrate further with implementation of new programs that reach beyond the scope of the AP and the SAT; Coleman provides the “linkage” that is expected to “benefit both K-12 and higher education,” says Lester P. Monts, a former College Board trustee and search committee leader.  Discussing his plans in an interview, Coleman remarked: “What the Common Core does in combination with the College Board is make it more realistic for us as a society to make sure that a kid’s educational life is richer and more rigorous every year,” he said, “so there’s not this sudden rise in challenge when it comes time to take an examination.  Still, critics of the College Board, including Robert A. Schaefer, public education director for FairTest, point to the organization’s continued attempt at using ‘one-size-fits-all’ practices to ‘administer’ the country’s public education.

    Whatever your opinion, this juncture provides an opportunity for colleges and high schools to find common ground around an important topic. Coleman’s hiring signals a commitment toward education reform and provides an opportunity for the organization to reforms its own image. “The College Board needs to be known more for what it does than for the SAT and its other products,” says Jerome A. Lucido, another former College Board trustee.  Only time will tell whether this goal might be fulfilled.

    Ithaca College Goes Test-Optional

    May 13th, 2012

    ic-crest-logo1This week, Ithaca College became the most recent addition to the ranks of test-optional colleges and universities, dropping standardized test submission as a requirement for admissions.  In its release, Ithaca pointed to the holistic nature of its admissions evaluations, as well as research performed on past applicants, among chief reasons for the announcement.  “From the coursework they choose, to the leadership positions they hold, and the many and varied talents that they bring, we want to develop a complete picture of every student. None of that is captured in a standardized test score,” notes Director of Admission Gerard Turbide.  Eager to reap the benefits of the new policy, IC is moving forward with plans to implement  for students applying for the 2013 entering class.