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The SAT Still Matters: 9 Reasons Why

Every year, the same debate over the SAT arises. Is the SAT still important? I don’t know anyone who didn’t take the SAT exam when I was in high school. It was considered a requirement, a looming cloud of doom, and even a rite of passage. If you wanted to go to college, you sucked it up, grabbed a number two pencil, and sat through a grueling 3 hours in your high school’s auditorium. But if you wanted to go to a good college, you did much more than that, you planned ahead and studied like your life depended on it. Unless you aspired to work at Mc Donald’s for the rest of your life, there was no real getting around it.

For many students, receiving their SAT scores was a traumatic experience, filled with shame and defeat. Recently, I had to look up my ancient SAT scores for a job application. Immediately, memories of senior year flooded back to me. I remember combining my last-attempt SAT scores over and over hoping that the next time I added them up the number would be 100 points higher. Like everyone else in my class who didn’t get into Stanford or UCLA, my numbers never changed.

But perhaps, a change is on the horizon. It seems like the SAT is going under another makeover, or maybe losing its foothold entirely. According to The National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), who issued a report urging colleges and universities to consider dropping the test score requirement for admissions, the test is becoming obsolete. Fair Test lists over 800 four-year institutions that don’t even use the ACT or SAT in their admissions decisions. Does that mean high school students across the nation no longer have to stress over their verbal and math scores? Not exactly.

In light of Educator’s new SAT Section, which includes a complete SAT Overview Course and Subject Test Prep, I thought I would do some research on why the SAT continues to matter. As much as I hated taking them, the SAT and the SAT Subject Tests are still important. In no particular order, here’s why:

1. You’re probably going to end up going to a public institution…

As private tuition continues to grow beyond the financial reach of many students, competition to get into state schools is tougher and public schools are receiving more applications. Therefore, most public colleges are not only still requiring test scores, but they’re using them to become even more selective. Taking the SAT is one way students can stand out among the other applicants.

2. Admission committees can be sneaky…

According to an article by Janet Lorin at Bloomberg News, “Colleges from Bowdoin in Maine to Pitzer in California dropped the SAT entrance exam as a requirement… [but] what they don’t advertise is they find future students by buying names of kids who do well on the test.” The SAT is pretty much an intelligence test and colleges have an invested interest in knowing how smart their applicants are. So just because you took the test and your chosen school doesn’t require it, doesn’t mean the admissions team won’t figure out a way to find out how you did.

3. Age-old traditions are hard to break…

The story of the SAT begins in the two decades after World War II and was first used experimentally in 1926. UCLA quickly became the first to the test. Records claim that representatives of the college fear dire consequences if U.C. decided to end its use of the test: “If they drop the SAT, we will lose a great deal more than the revenue; we will suffer a damaging blow to our prestige.” And prestige is a very hard thing to let go of. According to a recent article by John Cloud for TimeUS, “Most universities have no immediate plans to stop asking for SAT scores.” Better to take the test, do your best, and learn what you can from it.

4. The test does measures something valuable…

There is something to be said about a high school student who has the diligence and discipline to memorize the details of the Franco-Prussian War for the history subject test or study numerous archaic vocabulary words that no one ever uses in real life. My math teachers were mind-numbingly boring and I know for certain, that if it hadn’t been for the math I had to urgently study during my SAT preparations, I might have never learned algebra.

5. Learning how to eliminate the wrong answer is a very useful skill…

It can be used for just about any standardized test. Later in life you may want to take the GMAT for business school or the LSAT for law school. You’re guaranteed to come across problems that require you to know what’s wrong before you can figure out what’s right. Knowing the wrong answer is also very useful when it comes to dating!

6. The SAT can kind of predict the future…

In a recent article on whether the SAT still matters, President Kurt Landgraf of the Educational Testing Service, the company that designs the SAT under contract from the College Board, says it “is a relatively good predictor of how students will do in their first year of college.”

7. Cost-effective always wins…

The College Board says that, across many colleges, SAT scores improve the correlation between admissions predictions and GPA realities by 10%. And 10% means a lot to big campuses that can’t afford to spend hours getting to know applicants in a more holistic way. The SAT is still very cost effective for many schools that rely on it to help in the daunting admissions process.

8. Rankings matter and perception is everything…

Schools that require the SAT are usually ranked higher than schools that do not or who make SAT scores optional. There is also a perception of quality that is attached to test and top colleges and universities still believe in its merits.

9. The SAT builds character…

It has become a trend for parents in recent years to protest homework, tough graduation requirements, class rankings, and even grades. I for one am scared to live in a world lead by a generation who received trophies just for participating. In another Educator blog article, I talk about different parenting styles such as Tea Cup Parenting. Welcome to the real world, rejection and evaluations are part of life. Sometimes I wish I knew then what I know now. Some of my peers in high school whined about the equality and purpose of the SAT. If I could go back in time, I would remind them that tests, just like life, are not fair.

I. Rose De Lilly
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