By Joycelin Wong
In 2019, dozens of affluent parents were convicted for their participation in Operation Varsity Blues, the college admissions scandal that shocked the country. In a desperate attempt to influence admissions decisions at some of the nation’s top universities, parents not only paid hefty bribes to inflate their childrens’ standardized test scores, but they also paid the ultimate price of public shame and humiliation. However, this revelation has only scratched the surface of the cheating epidemic. Though standardized exams were once deemed “fair,” these test scores are now critiqued in the college admissions process as they expose the injustice and bias that plague the system. A standardized test score, one that now defines success and underestimates potential, cons students into thinking that their future is defined by a number. Bringing to light the socioeconomic and gender issues that come into play, standardized test scores should not be emphasized in schools or weighed as heavily in the college admissions process.
The unbearable pressure placed on students to score high on the SAT and ACT has caused families to scramble for test preparation courses. As universities boast about their students’ high standardized exam scores, high schoolers are brainwashed to believe that a test will be their golden ticket to their dream school. Often benefiting wealthy students, children coming from low income families are financially handicapped as they cannot afford test preparation programs. While some schools have the financial resources to aid students in preparing for these exams, others lack access to these critical materials. Schools in less affluent districts have a disadvantage in terms of obtaining a quality education.
While financial stability may play a significant factor in standardized testing, test scores are also hampering female college applicants’ chances of attending some of the most elite institutions. A University of Michigan study exposed that standardized testing was to blame for this gender disparity. According to the same study, though women may excel in other academic criteria, like a high GPA, men tend to score higher on standardized exams. The combination of female applicants’ lower test scores and the weight of these scores in the application pool have led to the under-enrollment of women. A holistic admissions standard, placing less emphasis on these results, will put an end to this gender imbalance.
As “strong predictors of college success,” many colleges rely on standardized tests to compare students’ achievement; sometimes, a test score could be the determining factor for acceptance into a university. Though some institutions have implemented a test optional policy or claim to take all parts of an application into consideration when making a decision, there are simply too many factors that affect how a student scores on a standardized exam and how that is interpreted on a college application.
Whether it be test anxiety or a low family income, one number should not define a student’s success and future. As the college admissions process becomes increasingly more competitive, the stigma surrounding a low test score has significantly affected millions of students; many in the academic world fail to acknowledge the many factors that contribute to testing. In a process that claims to celebrate uniqueness, standardized test scores neglect students’ character, creativity, and depth and force them into the same mold that everyone is striving for.