By Jonathan Millman
The uncertainty is not only stifling our economy, but also our education system. Many people just don’t know what to do, what to study, if they should go back to school and continue their education and suffer through the tedium of online classes, or simply drop out of school altogether and join the workplace. The chaos that is currently ensuing in the space of education is unprecedented and it’s truly important to understand and formulate what certain mentalities are and the truth behind these mentalities. Therefore, we have segmented this article into 5 traps and truths to help maintain the chaos of the current situation.
During these times of uncertainty, many parents are foregoing the traditional education processes: forget an SAT, ACT, or SHSAT. No exams mean no need for tutoring, and we need to save as much money as possible, so it’s best to go to the “cheapest school possible” during times of economic hardship. “They are probably still going to have online learning, so it doesn’t matter what school my child is attending.”
“THE EXAMS ARE HERE TO STAY!”
These exams are not going anywhere! Many are against exams, indicating they are poor indicators of student performance. While this may be true for a small segment of the population, exams are a staple of our education system and until a valid alternative is proven to be as effective, the exams will have to stay. Exams are the only objective reliable source of proving student ability on a large scale and without these exams, the admissions process into elite schools will become a hodgepodge of connections and social status. Or, we will completely eradicate competitive schools and create a socialist regime where every student learns the same, is given the same grades no matter how hard he/she studies, and limits the abilities of what our most “Gifted” students can learn.
An education is by far, the best way to increase economic standing and ensure a successful future. To completely ignore the value of education is a falsehood. Please read this article on the importance of a college education.
On the other hand, it is extremely important to note that the world has changed significantly post Covid-19 and it may not be economically possible for people to pay for tutoring for the SAT, ACT, and SHSAT post Covid-19. On top of the cost of test prep, the daunting bill of sending your child to a university that costs upwards of $70,000 per year may simply sound insane!
Therefore, it is important to note that many colleges will be giving out more in Financial aid, scholarships, and merit awards than they ever have before because they are attempting to continue to attract a strong student body. The colleges are taking on an, “All or Nothing Approach” looking to diversify, lower tuition costs, and bolster their statistics. Because of these unprecedented times, universities are forced to adapt and reform accordingly, which will bolster their rankings and thus bolster their most prized asset – their alumni (the most important aspect when it comes to rankings, financial stability and overall success for an institution.
College admissions will fundamentally change. Therefore, it is more vital than ever before to get better grades, better SAT or ACT scores, and do as well as possible because standardized exams in a post covid-19 world will be the perfect time to not only get into the college of your dreams, but get a full scholarship.
-The Trap Two-
We have encountered these statements on an excessive scale:
“Schools are test optional, so my child no longer has to take the SAT.”
“Schools are not going to re-open, so they won’t give standardized tests”
The general mentality is that because the SAT/ACT is no longer being required by colleges for the Fall, students no longer have to take the exams. And, many parents are worried that the SHSAT will not be administered this fall.
Unfortunately, the media has a tendency of over-playing their hands, so to speak. The headlines are not indicative of what is being said in the articles. You may see an article that says, “SCHOOLS DROP SAT/ACT REQUIREMENT” or “SHSAT – a thing of the past?” First off, it’s important to note the difference between a headline and what the article actually states. The headline is designed to capture the reader’s attention and then the facts are stated throughout the article. However, people have a tendency, especially those reading on their social media accounts, to only pay attention to the headlines and ignore the most major aspects of the article. If you even take into account this article, “Lies about the SAT, ACT, and SHSAT” is significantly more catchy than “Important Facts and Data for standardized exams.” People tend to see the words “Lies”, “SAT”, “ACT”, “SHSAT” and be more tempted to read the article. But, at this point, you should realize that this is not some sensationalistic tendency dispelling myths about the SAT, ACT, and SHSAT, but rather an article designed to make sure that parents and students are aware of certain traps that are out there before they realize their mistakes too late.
Please check out https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/21/us/university-california-sat-act.html for a very specific example. The headline clearly states that UCLA, one of the best colleges in the country will “end the use of the SAT.” But, upon reading the article, going test blind is a 5 year plan, “In 2025, consideration of the SAT or ACT for any student’s admission, in or out of state, would be eliminated.” And, better yet, the notion is theoretical at best.
Even if schools do decide to eliminate the SAT or ACT, the only thing that would replace these exams would be more standardized exams that are school specific, which would most likely lead to another level of skepticism and controversy.
No one is arguing that these exams are flawed, but they are the best unit of measurement we have right now for unbiased admission.
But, the requirement is being changed, at least temporarily. Most schools are becoming test optional, but there has been significant controversy in the past about some schools going “Test Optional” specifically University of Chicago https://news.uchicago.edu/story/uchicago-launches-test-optional-admissions-process-expanded-financial-aid-scholarships
U Chicago did this because they wanted to increase their enrollment and make sure the application was accessible to all of the best applicants, and not be limited by a standarized test such as the SAT or ACT, which often can be difficult to schedule, take, and study for in certain circumstances. But, does that mean that you don’t need the SAT or ACT to get into some of the top Universities in the country, such as University of Chicago?
The Answer: YES, you still need an SAT or ACT to get into most schools!
To break down the answer to this question, it is important to understand some key definitions:
TEST-OPTIONAL VS TEST-BLIND
The term “TEST-OPTIONAL” simply means that students have the “option” of submitting applications without SAT or ACT scores, giving them a chance of being admitted as long as their applications are exceptional in every other respect, including high GPAs, excellent extracurricular activities, and a phenomenal essay (for more information about the college process, please visit our College Advising page. However, these schools still actively consider SAT/ACT scores when students submit them, making standardized test scores an integral part of most competitive applications.
For example, University of Chicago, a school that has been “Test Optional” for over 2 years now, has only accepted 10-15 percent of its 2023 class without a stanardized exam such as the SAT or AC. Please visit https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2019/07/15/chicago-sees-success-dropping-testing-requirement-admissions for more information. And if you’d like to find out about those statistics, please visit collegescorecard.gov. The trick for college admissions is to be in the applicant pool that is least competitive and to be in the statistical category that is most likely for admissions. Putting yourself automatically in the applicant pool of only 10-15% admissions, with an acceptance rate of 7% total of all applicants being admitted means that if you submit your application with no SAT or ACT your best chance of being accepted is 1.05%.
“TEST-BLIND” schools, however, do not even consider SAT or ACT scores. Even if a student submits a perfect SAT score of 1600 or a perfect ACT score of 36, that score will not be considered in his or her application. At present, only one four year accredited university in the United States—Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts—is test blind. To reiterate, 100% of the applicants received acceptances without an SAT or ACT.
Question: “Since so many schools are going test optional and it’s going to be so difficult for so many students to take the SAT, isn’t it likely that schools will accept more students without an SAT or ACT?”
Answer: No. Too many students have already taken the SAT or ACT in March prior to COVID and too many students are registered to take the upcoming exams in the fall. Collegeboard recently opened up new test dates available for students, including August, September, October, November, and December, please visit https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register/dates-deadlines to find out more about test dates, registration deadlines and more information about where to register for the SAT. Please visit https://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/registration.html to find out more about the ACT test dates, registration deadlines, and more information about where to register for the ACT.
The students applying for admission to Universities without an SAT or ACT will simply be at a disadvantage, not only for admissions, but for scholarship consideration. Remember, the SAT and ACT is often used as a measure to determine how much scholarship money a student could potentially receive. There has been no official change in policy administration from any colleges in regards to the students who are applying with no score.
So, not only are the students less likely to get into their dream schools without an SAT or ACT, but they are also less likely to get money for their dream school. The irony here is that the people who are most likely not able to take the SAT or ACT are the ones who need scholarship money the most.
SAT/ACT SCORES AND THE COMPETITIVE EDGE
Let’s take a look at 2 students side by side.
Student A: SAT 1420, gpa: 92, excellent essays, compelling story, powerful application, and phenomenal extracurricular activities, 7 AP classes and difficult course rigor..
Student B: gpa:94, excellent essays, compelling story, powerful application, and phenomenal extracurricular activities, 5 AP classes and a moderately difficult course rigor.
Who would you choose? Student B has a higher GPA but has no SAT or ACT and has less AP classes. Student A has an SAT, not stellar, a lower GPA but has a more difficult course load. Do you punish Student A for taking more difficult classes and an SAT? Or, do you take student B even though he/she hasn’t experienced the same level of difficulty as Student A in regards to his/her studies. The reality is that nearly every admissions officer, based on the criteria mentioned above, would choose student A because he/she demonstrates a higher likelihood of success in college. Student B is simply too much of a gamble and there would have to be something more to the application to gain the favor of most admissions officers. These are simple statistics that are clearly calculated on Collegescorecard.gov – students with higher SAT or ACT scores tend to do better in college for the first 2 years.
Thus, instead of seeing the COVID-19 crisis as a way to skip the SAT or ACT, students should use this extra time to make their applications even more competitive. The reality is that if you’re reading this article, you’ve already taken a step in the right direction. You’re in a position that is giving you a serious competetive advantage as opposed to the thousands of students that are not studying currently. Use this time to get ahead and the results could be phenomenal. Since there is so much less competition, some of the schools that you didn’t think were within your range, may now just be because so many students are simply giving up on their studies.
You should only not take the SAT or ACT if there is a legitimate reason. This includes but is not limited to a family member falling ill, significant financial problems, or something equivalent. There will be an entire section on the common application that will ask you about how COVID – 19 affected you and you will get your chance to explain why you did not or were not able to study for the SAT or ACT. However, do not think that you can simply make up a story. Colleges are getting very good at fact checking students, not to mention that with so many people suffering throughout the world, lying about this would be despicable and immoral.
-The Trap Three-
“Deblasio is going to use COVID as a way to bypass the system and finally get rid of the SHSAT in the fall.” “Once the SHSAT is gotten rid of, there will be no point of attending a specialized High School.” “Schools will be closed for the Fall of 2020 and online schooling will continue, so there will be no point to attend a specialized High School.”
Deblasio cannot use a crisis such as COVID-19 to completely obliterate the specialized High Schools. He has already tried and after receiving an incredible amount of political, community, and social backlash, he failed. We believe he will continue to fail until he comes up with a significant alternative to creating specialized High Schools.
Brooklyn Technical High School, Stuyvesant, Staten Island Technical High School, the Bronx School of Science, Laguardia, and a few more are homes to thousands of New York City’s most gifted students and by taking away the SHSAT, the admissions process would effectively crush the purpose of attending some of these elite schools and give rise to either a corrupt admissions process that would focus more on demographics than grades or a massive increase in demand for private schools. For more information about the hypotheticals of what may or may not happen if the SHSAT exam is gotten rid of in New York City, please check out this article.
Schools are unlikely to stay closed for the Fall if the trend remains the same. And, even if schools stay closed, the students who will be attending are not going to be going to the schools for just one semester. This situation will have to end soon, one way or another. The reality is that even is COVID-19 is here to stay with us for years to come, then schools will have to adapt. It will not change the fact that the environment, student body population, and opportunities at a specialized high school far exceed any other public high school throughout the city. Therefore, it is not only worth the money to prepare for the SHSAT exam, but it is vital for those students that are highly motivated and would like to attend a top tier university attend a specialized high school because it will increase the likelihood of acceptance based on the opportunities awarded.
-The Trap Four-
“We have to be safe first and foremost: don’t go outside, don’t plan anything for the future, this issue will not end, we will be entering a new world, we can’t go anywhere or do anything and most importantly save, save, save. We don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, so let’s not try to better ourselves, rather just just sit back and take a minute to process what’s happening in the world because the risk is too high and we don’t want to work on something that may not pay off in the end.”
This has happened before, relatively recently to be specific (the recession of 2008). I will never forget the moment I saw the headline in the Wall Street Journal, “Wall Street – RIP.” The housing bubble collapsed, layoffs were consistent, and economic hardship was upon us. What did the general public do: save, stay safe, and ensure economic stability. What that did in turn was crush the market, stagnate employment opportunities, and effectively turn the “safest” jobs unstable.
But, some came out on top.
Some saw this as an opportunity to reinvent themselves. An enormous amount of people began to flock back to schools and add on to their education. Others chose to start businesses and get out of the typical 9-5 mentality, believing that a stable job was the best option to living a happy and fulfilling life. People began to realize, perhaps for the first time in their lives, that nothing is permanent and there truly is no such thing as “Job security.” Even banks that were considered “too big to fail” required massive government bailouts in order to stay afloat. Many things changed after that year, but the world began its slow trek to recovery and many began to grow in success and change the world for the better.
Some view hardship as an opportunity. While most sit back and wait for life to stabilize, others redefine the world as is. The most successful people during this era were the ones that redefined themselves and pushed beyond the boundaries of what anyone thought possible. They didn’t save, they instead took on more risks. Amazon, Uber, Apple, and Facebook are just a few of the companies that began to reinvent themselves and take on new opportunities. Theser massive juggernauts understand the value of constant progression, and even in the most difficult of circumstances, they were able to come out on top, while others, most prominently Toys R Us failed. As people we should constantly be in the state of betterment and people need to begin to realize that they must continue their education and push for more in order to secure a better future and a better tomorrow. “Live as if you were to die tomorrow, learn as if you were to live forever” a famous quote by Mahatma Gandhi – a man who truly understood the value of education. Be strong and be brave and strive for more, for your rewards will almost always be rewarded.