Scoring Scorned

University of Chicago applicants no longer required to submit ACT, SAT scores

This fall, the University of Chicago will join over 1,000 schools with optional ACT and SAT submission policies. National debate over how much emphasis should be placed on standardized test scores in gauging a student’s college readiness has played out in academic institutions across the nation.

According to College Factual, the University of Chicago is ranked #307 in overall diversity out of 2,000 schools. By eliminating standardized test requirements in their application, University of Chicago is working to improve economic and racial diversity within their student body.

Outside college consultants can often give students a leg up in admissions. In a 2017 survey, 13% of Stevenson juniors reported utilizing a “privately hired college consultant.” Twenty-five percent of juniors said they “routinely seek academic assistance outside of class time from paid tutors.”

With five test-prep companies located within the Stevenson district and more nearby, students have a variety of choices, but at a price. Emily Wang ’19 said private test prep can cost between $300 and $3,000 dollars.

Because of this cost and other factors, learning center tutor Anastasiya Olkanetskaya said ACT and SAT testing is biased against low income students.

“Standardized testing is geared towards students who can afford it because they have the opportunity to retake tests,” Olkanestskaya said. “If you can’t afford that, you’re stuck with the score you have.”

Olkanestskaya added that Stevenson has lessened this economic disparity through initiatives such as the Stevenson to College program, the Kids in Need Fund and in-school tutors.

On top of these programs, 25% of juniors said they utilized Stevenson’s “post-secondary counselors to obtain information about colleges, scholarships, ect.” High school students in less affluent communities often lack these in-school resources.

Mara Grujanac, parent engagement coordinator who heads the Stevenson to College program, said that standardized testing is not the only way to determine academic competence.

“Colleges need to ask how they can best look holistically at a student and determine whether or not they are a good fit for their environment,” Grujanac said. “The option to not only look at test scores, but other application components, allows students to better demonstrate who they are.”

In accordance with rollbacks on standardized test requirements, the University of Chicago now gives applicants the option to submit a two-minute video demonstrating their talents. Admissions emphasizes that students not be overly rehearsed and voice their ideas in a creative way.

“It is nice to add a face and give the admissions more insight to a person,” Wang says. Wang also sees University of Chicago’s “creative” essay questions, including what would one do if they fell off the edge of the Earth, as an indicator that they are looking for outside of the box thinkers.

Grujanac does not see this change at one of the nation’s most selective universities as an indicator that universities are putting less weight on ACT and SAT scores, but that they are seeking different type of applicants.

“Colleges are being more open minded on who can attend and who can be successful,” Grujanac said. “Allowing students to demonstrate who they are beyond a test score.”