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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Columbia goes 'holistic,' dumps SAT/ACT requirement

Columbia University, know for its core curriculum in humanities, has become the first Ivy League school to drop SAT/ACT scores as an admissions requirement.

The policy, said officials, is “purposeful and nuanced — respecting varied backgrounds, voices and experiences — in order to best determine an applicant’s suitability for admission and ability to thrive in our curriculum and our community, and to advance access to our educational opportunities.”



The "holistic" talk is a shabby pretext, write National Review (NR) editors. Columbia is preparing for the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down or severely limit affirmative action. Test scores, as markers of academic merit, must go.

"Testing is the great equalizer," argues NR. "Studies have shown that standardized testing . . . allows talented children from disadvantaged backgrounds (whether economic or minority) to shine in a way their local educational opportunities (or a chaotic home life) might never have permitted."

You might have gone to Phillips Exeter Academy and had the best SAT tutors available to you — but this kid over here living above his parents’ corner store and studying when he doesn’t have to mind the shop? He took it once and scored a 1590.
But alas, that teenager is Asian, you see.

"Too many successful Asians" ruin the "perfectly balanced multihued racial rainbow that DEI administrators insist makes for a properly 'equitable' university," writes NR. "Columbia cares so much about this issue that they were willing to forgo standardized testing before they gave up legacy admissions."


Standardized testing opens the door to bright kids from low-income families, writes Rob Henderson. A C student in high school, he aced the test to get into the military and realized for the first time that he was smart. After serving in the Air Force, he earned a bachelor's degree from Yale and a doctorate in psychology from Cambridge.


Affluent parents with kids who "don't test well" know how to groom them for college admissions, writes Henderson, who grew up in foster care. Advantaged applicants "strategically boost their GPAs, get recommendation letters from important people, stack their resumes with extracurriculars, and use the right slogans in their admissions essays." Students whose parents didn't go to college don't know how to game the system.


Author Sherman Alexie left a comment:

I was a poor Native American kid who grew up on my tribe's reservation. Nobody in my family had ever gone to college. The reservation school was inadequate then. I commuted off the reservation to attend the much better public school on the rez border. I was a smart kid with good grades but I was smart in two towns—reservation Indian and farm town white — where there was no way of measuring my intelligence on a country-wide basis. I took the PSAT and SAT and did very well. And then the recruitment letters and brochures started pouring in. The reservation postal worker couldn't fit them into our mailbox so she'd put them into shopping bags. So every few days, I'd walk home with a shopping bag filled with possibilities. My world view expanded — it felt like it had exponentially expanded. And this all happened because of the SAT.

Alexie, who became an award-winning writer, is the author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and other works.

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