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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Dartmouth will require SAT/ACT scores to help low-income students

Dartmouth will require applicants to submit standardized test scores such as the SAT or ACT, ending a long "pandemic pause," reports David Leonhardt in the New York Times.


Dartmouth College

Test-optional policies hurt students from lower-income families, concluded the Ivy League college's research team. “There are hundreds of less-advantaged applicants with scores in the 1,400 range who should be submitting scores to identify themselves to admissions, but do not under test-optional policies," they wrote.


Some were rejected because the admissions office "could not be confident about their academic qualifications," writes Leonhardt. Grades aren't a reliable signal any more. Everybody's got straight A's.


“We know society is unequal,” Sian Beilock, the university president, said. “Kids that are excelling in their environment, we think, are a good bet to excel at Dartmouth and out in the world.”


"Dartmouth admits disadvantaged students who have scores that are lower on average than those of privileged students," writes Leonhardt. "Students from poor neighborhoods or troubled high schools have effectively been running with wind in their face. They are not competing fairly with affluent teenagers."


The analysis concluded that test scores are "a better predictor than high school grades — or student essays and teacher recommendations — of how well students would fare at Dartmouth," writes Leonhardt.


Grades may be inflated, essays may be written by Mom or polished by a hired counselor and recommendations favor the well-connected. Lower-income students often attend schools with few advanced or AP options and fewer extracurriculars; their parents can't fund violin, gymnastics or computer classes or send them on community-service trips.


Test scores are a helpful tool to find "students we might otherwise miss,” said Beilock, a cognitive scientist.


Boston College admits 25 percent of applicants who submit test scores, 10 percent of those who do not.


Test-optional policies are a "charade," writes Maggie Bigelow, a former high school teacher, on the Hechinger Report. Students from affluent families are more likely to submit scores -- and be admitted -- than those from lower-income families.

"The 2022 acceptance rate at Fordham University was 63 percent among students who submitted scores, compared with 49 percent among those who did not," Bigelow writes. "Similarly, Boston College’s 2022 incoming class recorded an acceptance rate of 25 percent among those who submitted scores and 10 percent among students who did not. This admittance discrepancy holds true for other big name schools, including Barnard, the University of Virginia, Georgia Tech, Amherst, and many more."

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