By Jenny Jiao, ’16
I am not a number. Or am I? I spent 50 bucks, countless hours of my summer and a whole lot of stress for a single number: 2100. Now I get to wear it around for the next year and a half, flaunting my new “identity” so that people will respect me, so that colleges will accept me.
This is a SAT score.
Some would say this directly measures intelligence; it’s either your golden ticket to Stanford or a kink in your application. However, it’s grown to be a test of not only how well you understand English grammar and basic math, but also how much money you’re willing to throw at it and how much time you feel like wasting on it.
And what about those who don’t have a spare couple hundred bucks lying around? Without those tutoring sessions, who knows if you’ll be able to raise your score the second time around. And those who can’t spend their weekends at a boot camp? Sorry, you’re out of luck.
The SAT is supposed to assess your academic readiness for college in a way that’s fair for all students. As college admissions intensifies each year, the SAT skews more and more towards the rich.
While 20 years ago the SAT was seen as a standardized way to test high school seniors, it has now evolved into a test of intelligence, effort and affluence.
Being a 2100 doesn’t make me any smarter than a 1900. Maybe it was another student’s first time taking it and they hadn’t had any purchased help while I’m over here with my tutor and stack of practice tests.
Some students may be able to benefit from their parents’ successes, but others are not so fortunate. For those less well-off, this could seriously impair their ability to score as well as their richer counterparts, even if their intelligences are comparable.
But if you’re someone negatively affected by the score skew, don’t fret. While the College Board will continue to see you as a series of digits ranging from 200 to 2400, there are ways to make the SAT slightly more fair.
According to Freada Klein, PhD., one possibility is for colleges to require disclosure of all forms of assistance obtained by the student. The SAT score report would essentially include any purchased help, such as tutoring or camps, so colleges have a better sense of the students’ intelligence.
Essentially, this would be treating the SAT less like a standardized test and more like a GPA; colleges look at the number, but also take into consideration in what context the number derives from.
Instead of seeing a 1700 vs. a 1900 student, they would be seeing a student who has had no extra help vs. a student who has had a tutor, for instance.
By understanding that the SAT isn’t necessarily the most fair or standardized way to approach measuring college readiness, we can progress towards leveling the playing field for those less affluent.
And just because the world is asking us to define our intelligence and college readiness as a number, doesn’t mean we have to.
Because I am not a number. And neither are you.