82.1 F
Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, August 16, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesThe Road To College: How Important Are SATs?

The Road To College: How Important Are SATs?

Regular readers of The Road To College will note that the last two weeks’ columns have dealt with issues—one tragic, the other just stupid—that transpired on college campuses after students matriculated. This week we return to the application process itself, specifically considering standardized testing, starting with the role played—or not—by the delights of the SAT or ACT.
Those who read the first column in this series, where we considered the matter of course selection, will recall that the No. 1 factor in college admissions is the transcript, the document that lists the courses a senior has taken and the grades he or she has earned.
No matter where a senior applies, job one is always the matter of taking the most demanding courses that are available and appropriate to your interests and abilities; then earning the best grades you can. These twin issues of rigor and results come up whenever admissions officers ask, as they are wont to do, “Has the student challenged him or herself?” and “How did it work out?” So, program and performance always go first.
Next on the list of criteria of selection may be standardized testing, but not as often as many students and parents think. Only at large public institutions that use formulas to project first-year grade-point average do standardized tests, such as the SAT or ACT, step right up into second place behind the transcript.
If you’re applying to such places, you can often find a chart on the admissions page of the website that will show the inverse relationship between high school grade-point average and SAT or ACT that will be necessary to earn an offer of admission.
It’s an inverse correlation because the higher your GPA, the lower your SAT or ACT can afford to be. Conversely, high test scores may balance out a lower GPA. This process is admission by calculator, not committee, and it does exist at some big state schools.
Far more common, including at large state schools that are truly selective, is a process of evaluation known as “holistic review.” This consideration will start, as always, with the transcript; then proceed to take into account a student’s resume of activities, personal writing, recommendations, interviews, standardized testing, and perhaps other factors such as geographic and/or socioeconomic diversity.
In such a process, which is what takes place at most places Virgin Islanders apply, an array of factors, some quantitative, others qualitative—even highly subjective (e.g. the essay)—will be make or break.
Nevertheless, standardized testing will be on the list, though it will commonly be listed later, usually by a college admissions officer seeking to underplay the significance of the SATs and ACTs. Admissions officers conduct themselves this way in order to emphasize that they generally have no “cut-off” score; they do so to alleviate some of the pressure that students feel regarding tests that baffle many, and allow wiggle room to sneak in the stud athlete, double-legacy, or development case that has trouble finding a No. 2 pencil, never mind using it to fill in the right bubbles on the SAT or ACT.
If standardized testing is required, either the SAT or the ACT will do 99 percent of the time. (At least one engineering school still insists on seeing the SAT Math score). The SAT is the older test; the ACT younger. The SAT has sections in Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing; the ACT English, Math, Reading, Science, and an optional Writing section.
The SAT is scored with 800 points available on each section; the ACT is scored with 36 points available on each section. The first thing students do on the SAT is write a 25-minute essay; the last thing students do on the ACT, if they opt to do so, is write a 30-minute essay. (N.B. The more selective the college, the more likely it is that the ACT Writing will be required.)
The SAT has penalties for wrong answers; the ACT does not. I urge my students to take both tests in spring of Junior year, see which one works better for them, then do more study and take that better one again, at least once, in senior year. I have seen students accepted to colleges and universities all across the country with either the SAT or ACT in hand. It makes sense to try both tests.
Finally, however, for those who find standardized testing in any form little short of torture, there are more than 800 colleges and universities that have test-optional policies. The complete list is available at www.fairtest.org. About 60 of the schools on that list are good enough to be in the Fiske Guide to Colleges, a book that contains detailed write-ups on the top 300 colleges in the country. A test-optional application commonly requires an additional essay, an interview, a graded paper, a portfolio or something else for evaluation; it is a great route for students who just can’t score on the SAT or ACT.
A writer I can’t recall with certainty, perhaps Fitzgerald or Hemingway, noted that a mark of high intelligence is the ability to hold two equally strong but contradictory views in one’s mind simultaneously. Such is the case with standardized testing. Students should try like hell to do their very best. If it works out, great. If it doesn’t, who cares? Find that test-optional list, and apply away!
Chris Teare is the Director of College Counseling at Antilles School on St. Thomas. He is a member of the Fiske College Guide Editorial Advisory Group, a position for which he receives only one copy of the book.
Students interested in preparation courses for the SAT or ACT should contact the following:
–for SAT Prep, Jill Tipton at 227-3908 or jtipton@antilles.vi;
–for ACT Prep, Dana Thomas at dthomas@antilles.vi.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.




Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.

FROM FACEBOOK

Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
Load more

Regular readers of The Road To College will note that the last two weeks’ columns have dealt with issues—one tragic, the other just stupid—that transpired on college campuses after students matriculated. This week we return to the application process itself, specifically considering standardized testing, starting with the role played—or not—by the delights of the SAT or ACT.
Those who read the first column in this series, where we considered the matter of course selection, will recall that the No. 1 factor in college admissions is the transcript, the document that lists the courses a senior has taken and the grades he or she has earned.
No matter where a senior applies, job one is always the matter of taking the most demanding courses that are available and appropriate to your interests and abilities; then earning the best grades you can. These twin issues of rigor and results come up whenever admissions officers ask, as they are wont to do, “Has the student challenged him or herself?” and “How did it work out?” So, program and performance always go first.
Next on the list of criteria of selection may be standardized testing, but not as often as many students and parents think. Only at large public institutions that use formulas to project first-year grade-point average do standardized tests, such as the SAT or ACT, step right up into second place behind the transcript.
If you’re applying to such places, you can often find a chart on the admissions page of the website that will show the inverse relationship between high school grade-point average and SAT or ACT that will be necessary to earn an offer of admission.
It’s an inverse correlation because the higher your GPA, the lower your SAT or ACT can afford to be. Conversely, high test scores may balance out a lower GPA. This process is admission by calculator, not committee, and it does exist at some big state schools.
Far more common, including at large state schools that are truly selective, is a process of evaluation known as “holistic review.” This consideration will start, as always, with the transcript; then proceed to take into account a student’s resume of activities, personal writing, recommendations, interviews, standardized testing, and perhaps other factors such as geographic and/or socioeconomic diversity.
In such a process, which is what takes place at most places Virgin Islanders apply, an array of factors, some quantitative, others qualitative—even highly subjective (e.g. the essay)—will be make or break.
Nevertheless, standardized testing will be on the list, though it will commonly be listed later, usually by a college admissions officer seeking to underplay the significance of the SATs and ACTs. Admissions officers conduct themselves this way in order to emphasize that they generally have no “cut-off” score; they do so to alleviate some of the pressure that students feel regarding tests that baffle many, and allow wiggle room to sneak in the stud athlete, double-legacy, or development case that has trouble finding a No. 2 pencil, never mind using it to fill in the right bubbles on the SAT or ACT.
If standardized testing is required, either the SAT or the ACT will do 99 percent of the time. (At least one engineering school still insists on seeing the SAT Math score). The SAT is the older test; the ACT younger. The SAT has sections in Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing; the ACT English, Math, Reading, Science, and an optional Writing section.
The SAT is scored with 800 points available on each section; the ACT is scored with 36 points available on each section. The first thing students do on the SAT is write a 25-minute essay; the last thing students do on the ACT, if they opt to do so, is write a 30-minute essay. (N.B. The more selective the college, the more likely it is that the ACT Writing will be required.)
The SAT has penalties for wrong answers; the ACT does not. I urge my students to take both tests in spring of Junior year, see which one works better for them, then do more study and take that better one again, at least once, in senior year. I have seen students accepted to colleges and universities all across the country with either the SAT or ACT in hand. It makes sense to try both tests.
Finally, however, for those who find standardized testing in any form little short of torture, there are more than 800 colleges and universities that have test-optional policies. The complete list is available at www.fairtest.org. About 60 of the schools on that list are good enough to be in the Fiske Guide to Colleges, a book that contains detailed write-ups on the top 300 colleges in the country. A test-optional application commonly requires an additional essay, an interview, a graded paper, a portfolio or something else for evaluation; it is a great route for students who just can’t score on the SAT or ACT.
A writer I can’t recall with certainty, perhaps Fitzgerald or Hemingway, noted that a mark of high intelligence is the ability to hold two equally strong but contradictory views in one’s mind simultaneously. Such is the case with standardized testing. Students should try like hell to do their very best. If it works out, great. If it doesn’t, who cares? Find that test-optional list, and apply away!
Chris Teare is the Director of College Counseling at Antilles School on St. Thomas. He is a member of the Fiske College Guide Editorial Advisory Group, a position for which he receives only one copy of the book.
Students interested in preparation courses for the SAT or ACT should contact the following:
--for SAT Prep, Jill Tipton at 227-3908 or jtipton@antilles.vi;
--for ACT Prep, Dana Thomas at dthomas@antilles.vi.