Getting in without SATs

Sarah Lawrence, a small liberal-arts college, picks admits without considering SAT scores. With grades varying so much from school to school, the admissions committee uses “a sample essay graded by a high-school teacher to determine the curriculum’s rigor,” New York Magazine explains.

But the samples also tell something about the readers. “I had one essay that said how awful Twilight was”—the essay was about damaging themes of female submissiveness in the series—“and I was like, ‘Admit her!’?” says Melissa Faulner, a 2006 grad on the committee. Whereas what the readers wryly call TCML essays—“theater changed my life”—are looked at more skeptically.

A girl from Texas scored a three (out of five) in academics while getting top marks in the other two categories. “Her grades really are bad,” Will Floyd allowed. She hadn’t gotten one A in high school. “But her writing was gorgeous,” he noted. The girl explained in her application that she has test anxiety and problems with rote memorization. But she had good recommendation letters. Besides, Sarah Lawrence’s curriculum emphasizes writing over test-taking. She got in.

More than half of applicants are offered a place at Sarah Lawrence.  Tuition and room and board cost more than $55,000 a year: 61 percent of undergrads receive financial aid.

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  1. Cardinal Fang says:

    A correction: Perhaps the linked article has been changed since Joanne put up the post. It now says that applicants at Sarah Lawrence are given a ranking from one (the best) to five (the worst) on academics, writing and “extracurricular.” So the applicant from Texas did not get the lowest possible score in academics. She got a three, the middle score.

    Interesting that fully a third of their weighting is on writing, based on the graded writing sample provided by the applicant.

  2. Thanks, Cardinal. I’ve fixed it.

  3. So students are getting in based on an essay that could have been written by someone else?

    I’m not saying that Sarah Lawrence doesn’t have a right to do this. I don’t think that every possible bad decision should be banned. All I am exercising is my right to criticise.

  4. Wow, it’s hard to know where to start. They must be desperate for students – admitting half is really bad. Maybe they shouldn’t have loaded up on debt so that they could charge half as much, and still get by? But I feel really bad for the kids that go there, graduate with $200K in debt, and discover that a major in deconstructive feminism qualifies them to work at Target or go to an equally “at-risk” grad school, and then be unemployed with more debt and an MFA or junk JD.

    But the kids will like their four years in a nurturing environment that lets them find themselves and express their uniqueness, and the hacks that teach there will keep their phony-baloney jobs for another few years.

  5. Mark Roulo says:

    Wow, it’s hard to know where to start. They must be desperate for students – admitting half is really bad.

    Yep. Next thing you know the school will suck just as badly as UC Santa Barbara 🙂 One sure wouldn’t want to go there!

    Snark off.

    What is wrong with a 50% acceptance rate?

    -Mark R.

  6. So the girl who bashed Twilight gets an admit, but I’m betting the author of that series (Mormon, undistinguished high school) wouldn’t be accepted. Seems like snob factor + victim status.

    Test anxiety? Is that an actual diagnosis? And how will college work for this person?

  7. Cardinal Fang says:

    I don’t see that Texas girl was accepted because of her “victim status” (nor do I think she is a victim). Read the article. The admissions committee loved her because *she can write*. She probably won’t end up at Sarah Lawrence, but wherever she is, her professors will like her too, because *she can write*. College will work just fine for her.

    Tracy, the writing sample is a graded paper from high school. Remember, she also has a couple of recommendations from her high school teachers. If her recommending teachers are at all competent, they’ve seen not only her finished papers, but drafts. They should know how well she writes. Possibly she had someone do all her high school writing for her, but that seems unlikely.

    Sarah Lawrence is one of the most expensive schools in the country, but its cost is not out of line with other private colleges in the Northeast. $50K/year is how much a private college costs nowadays. Also, a 50% acceptance rate is not thought of as low nowadays when good students apply to ten or fifteen schools.

  8. Just another example of lowered standards in American schools. The beat goes on……..

  9. If you want an eye opener, google the term below:

    “Is college a ripoff? – John Stossel”

    Every parent of a high school age student should view this before even thinking of applying to college (and there are great educational bargains at community or junior colleges, get an AA and a transfer agreement, you’ll save a boatload of money).

  10. Ed Wynn says:

    Better yet, just Google “John Stossel is a douchebag”–dozens of hits!

    Comparing a first-rate, small liberal college to a Community College is idiotic. Only Stosell or his ilk would claim they are interchangeable and would have the gall to miss-advise people to just go to one and not the other on the basis of cost alone.


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