Wanted: New criteria for admissions decisions

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Wanted: New criteria for admissions decisions

High-achieving students are applying to college in record numbers, and it’s becoming more difficult for colleges to make admissions decisions based on standardized test scores and grade point averages, Jeffrey Selingo writes for The Atlantic.

Each year, students receive higher SAT and ACT stores, and more than half of students now graduate high school with an A average. With so many qualified applicants, schools are beginning to turn to more subjective criteria for admissions decisions, like “demonstrated interest” or “ability to pay.”

“You can’t go to a college fair anymore and say you have these grades and you’re in,” explains Eric J. Furda, the dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn). Instead, Penn considers prospective students’ “relative growth and trajectory” to distinguish between high-achieving applicants. “Our evaluation process looks at where they are right now and what can we expect from them once they come to our campus,” Furda notes.

Other schools admit students based on whether they’d fit in on campus. Some colleges are even testing for personality for a more holistic admissions approach. And some schools are simply eliminating standardized test scores.

For example, Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts is one of more than 1,000 colleges that no longer requires SAT or ACT scores. With a predominantly project-based curriculum, Worcester decided standardized test scores would no longer be a good indicator of a student’s success on campus.

And because high test scores are positively correlated with family income, some schools are eliminating test scores to increase diversity. But schools that eliminate standardized test scores are “often trading one inequitable measure of merit for another,” Selingo argues. Alternative criteria like demonstrated interest—visiting campus or applying early decision—still tend to favor wealthy applicants, he notes (Selingo, The Atlantic, 5/25).

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