Flaws in the System

December 15, 2011
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The college process. This is the scary shadow that looms over our entire high school career, and is characterized by anxiety and nervousness rather than the excitement it should be associated with. There are a couple flaws in the college process that completely undermine its effectiveness in choosing good candidates for future students; the first of which is the SAT. Almost all juniors and seniors must suffer the four hour ordeal in which they are required to answer a series of questions categorized as Math, Writing, or Critical Reading – along with writing a short essay in 25 minutes. The concept is quite idealistic: one number can be a reliable factor when determining the intellectual capacity of a student. Unfortunately, the math questions only test up to the level Algebra II, the critical reading section is easy to botch if you happen to not know a couple specific vocabulary words, and a 25 minute essay can in no way determine if one is an effective writer. Without testing actual math knowledge, how does an 800 really represent a student who is prepared for college? If a student who has done reasonably well in high level math classes is unable to score highly on this section, it has no reflection on their actual ability to do calculus, trigonometry, or any other types of math that are needed in college. The critical reading section can be entirely dependent on luck in some cases. What if I don’t know the difference between the words excoriate and scourge? Though that may dock about 30 points from my score, does that mean I am not as intelligent as someone who happened to come across the words in a newspaper article? With the writing section, in 25 minutes even the best of writers will usually only have time to put down an argument without completely refining it or editing it. Some people who may be excellent writers falter under pressure. I question how this is a better method of judging writing skills than by simply reading an essay written by a student in their own time. Despite what admissions officers claim about SAT scores not being very significant, there is a reason why the average SAT score ranges are printed in almost every college admissions booklet: they are important. And their inflated importance is a huge flaw in the system.

Another gaping hole in the system: it is extremely impersonal. Admissions officers try to paint a portrait of each student through a series of short answers, a personal essay (which is a mere 250-500 words), transcripts, recommendations, and resumes. The actual interview is such a small part that sometimes it is considered optional. Let us consider this for a moment. The only time where the student is ever face to face with someone in the admissions process can be optional? It is impossible to gain a full understanding of a student without meeting them, talking to them, and asking them about their own interests and accomplishments. If more weight were put on something like this rather than formulated answers on paper, the admissions officer would be able to understand each student better, and the student would not have to worry about writing tens of supplement essays for each school they apply to.
College (from what I have heard) can consist of some of the best years in one’s life. It seems ridiculous to me that the years before are filled with seemingly unnecessary tension that can scrape away the excitement of the whole process.

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