The First Lie: Standardized Tests are Less and Less Important
Today, colleges are relying on standardized test scores when making admissions decisions to a far larger degree than they have in years. One reason is that the number of applications at most top colleges is soaring. That’s not because there are more 18 year-olds graduating from high school. It is because more kids are each applying to more colleges. And with little increase in the size of admission staffs at most colleges, schools are using SAT and ACT scores to make a fast, easy cut of the applicant pool.
Are test-optional colleges adopting a kindler-gentler approach to admissions? No, they’re chasing rankings. Think about it. When a school declares SAT scores to be optional, which students report their scores? Only students with high test scores. This boosts the average SAT scores at the college and the school moves up a rung on the rankings ladder.
The Second Lie: The Magic 700
At the very selective colleges and universities, there is a very scary reality: if you don’t have a 700/700 score on the SAT, you’re just not getting on the table – unless you have a very special hook. The 680/690 kid is a dime-a-dozen. Taking the ACT? You’d better be in the 30’s on every subsection.
The Third Lie: Colleges Want Well-Rounded Students
The worst-kept secret of college admissions is that colleges are looking for the well-rounded class, not the well-rounded student. They want some real scholars for every department – some superb athletes; some great musicians and actors; a few rich kids whose parents can build a library wing; and some legacies to keep the alumni happy. The applicant who is attractive but not really special in any one category is going to have a much tougher time getting in.
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