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Through our very own editors and guest writers, this blog will discuss the INSIDE scoop on the admissions process of various schools and programs. If you wish to ask a specific question, please write to us, and we will make every attempt to address your questions in our future blog discussions.
Monday, January 12, 2015
What Free SAT Testing Means for College Admissions
Last week, the state of Michigan announced that it would be offering the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) for free to all public high school juniors. On its face, this is great news for Michigan students. In the greater context of college admissions, however, it raises some interesting questions.

For decades, the SAT has been widely regarded as the benchmark test used in college admissions. It was designed to add equanimity into the process. Most colleges primarily consider grades, test scores and admissions essays in the vetting of potential applications. Because academic standards vary so widely across the country, the SAT was once seen as a great equalizer-a test that would help illustrate student aptitude with greater clarity.

Over the past decade, the SAT has waned in popularity, overtaken in many areas (including Michigan) by the ACT another college readiness test administered by a different organization. The SAT has also taken a hit for serving more as an indicator of privilege than intelligence. Typically, wealthier students have access to better test preparation services, and scores tend to follow the socioeconomic curve of the test taker.

In that regard, the fact that the test is now offered for free in Michigan is a victory for lower income students-assuming they have the resources to afford test prep materials.

But the ACT is widely regarded as a more balanced test, and one that offers a more nuanced picture of how a student is likely to perform in college. The fact that the College Board-the body which administers the SAT-won a contract-bidding war to secure the contract in Michigan is also telling. It means that low-income students may simply be stuck with the test they can best afford, rather than the one that might best suit their strengths.

Such a shift would continue to stratify the college admissions process. In the short-term, however, this is good news for public school students in Michigan. The SAT has also recently overhauled the test itself to render it more "user-friendly", possibly leaving the glass half-full, for now.


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