Colleges should drop standardized test requirements to make access fair

Mylo Bissell, Editor-in-Chief

When the pandemic shut down schools and testing access in March of 2020, many colleges waived their testing requirements. This acknowledgment of how unfair the requirement was when the test was now inaccessible was a perfect way to take the stress off of many rising seniors.

Taking away this stress led to an increase in college applications to what many consider to be inaccessible schools, like Harvard, which saw a 40% increase in applicants for the class of 2025. To me, this phenomenon is expected. The SAT and ACT are damaging barriers for underserved communities to make it into these universities. Dropping these testing requirements suddenly opened doors that had been previously deadbolted for many for so long. So it raises the question: Is waiving standardized test requirements the first step to making college more accessible to underserved students?

The answer, to me, is a definitive yes. I have been told many times by people with much more privilege than me say “The SAT is more about how you take it than what you know” and unfortunately due to the way the schools are funded, the ability to purchase resources to prep and the cost of being able to attempt these tests more than once like recommended, it is almost impossible to do this if you don’t already have the financial means to pay for this test prep.

Harvard may be a lofty example, but there are many other so-called elite universities that we all have grown up seeing similar images of the types of students who make up their typical student body. If you close our eyes and think of a Harvard student, you will likely picture a wealthy white person that comes from a family of power and prestige that is often conferred down through the generations through attending the same circle of elite schools.

And with the announcement of the U.S. Justice Department’s 2019 college admissions bribery scandal, we have all seen the lengths that some parents will go to get their children into competitive American universities. This operation resulted in charges where parents scammed the admissions processes to buy spots into the freshman classes at big-name schools using athletics programs as a “side door” in the admissions process when their children couldn’t score high enough on standardized tests.

The scandal made it painfully obvious how the wealthy and powerful have connections and resources giving them an unfair advantage when it comes to getting the grades, résumés, recommendations, and test scores needed to gain entry into these elite universities. For everyone else, this is an unattainable dream.

It’s time to level the playing field in the competition for admission slots at all American universities. Permanently removing standardized testing as a requirement for admission is a good first step to reforming this system. If we don’t take advantage of this opportunity for reform, we will be continuing the lie that anyone who works hard enough can make it into the college of their dreams.

The combination of the federal college admissions investigation and the results of at least temporarily removing standardized testing, has shown us all a roadmap of what must be done to make access to universities available to more than just people with parents who can pay any amount necessary, have parents with jobs that allow for touring colleges and getting help from counselors as much as they need.

Our current process relies too heavily on parent involvement and extracurricular prep when both things are a privilege.