The bane of every high school student’s existence — the SAT — isn’t going away anytime soon.
The College Board announced earlier this month that the SAT score gap between the average low income and wealthy applicants has continued to widen. However, Penn will continue to look to the test as a factor for admissions, Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said.
For students whose family income is less than $20,000, the average mathematics score is 460, compared to the average of 586 for students from family that earn over $200,000, according to Inside Higher Ed.
The College Board’s study also found that the national average score on the SAT has been declining over the years. The average ACT score, on the other hand, saw a small gain from 21 out of 36 points to 21.1.
This year’s six-point drop in the nationwide average SAT score can be attributed to “a broader, more diverse group of students taking the SAT,” Furda said.
Lower income students tend to yield lower scores because they do not have the same access to resources and education as higher income students, he added.
Many educators and counselors have suggested removing standardized tests from the admissions process to level the playing field.
“My personal opinion is that we should eliminate SAT and ACT testing,” said Michele Hernandez, president of Hernandez College Consulting. Universities should not use SAT scores to evaluate students because the tests “correspond so much to income and education level,” she added.
However, Furda does not think abolishing the SAT or ACT as a requirement for Penn is the solution.
“It’s easier to say the test is bad than to attack the causes underneath,” he said.
Instead, universities’ admissions offices need to have a “sensitivity for the context” of the applications, said Furda, adding, “We want to make sure that a student is taking full advantage of the opportunities they have.”
Other college consultants, such as IvySelect College Consulting Director Michael Goran, believe that SAT scores are a “way of equalizing students from various schools that have different ways of grading.”
However, Goran said students who can afford tutoring or paying to take the test multiple times do have an advantage. For students who cannot afford to pay for the SAT, College Board will waive the fee for only two tests, giving students who can afford to take the test more times an advantage.
“I improved about 100 to 200 points between tests,” said College sophomore Sarah Weingarten, who took the SAT reasoning test three times.
College sophomore Joan Chen, who used both a tutoring service and a prep class for the test, said she “does not think it’s a big deal” that discrepancies in preparation exist between applicants.
“SATs are only one aspect of admissions,” Chen said, adding that students with lower scores can impress the admissions office with their essays or high-school grades.
“What are our options?” College junior Josh Dembowitz said. “You can’t limit kids to one testing, and you can’t ban tutors. You need a way to compare kids.”
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