College Admissions: Rhetoric versus Reality

In addition to more colleges returning to test-required admissions (Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Caltech, Dartmouth, Yale, Georgetown, Brown, Cornell, etc), more colleges are also beginning to tell the truth about their admissions practices.

The full piece “Denied? That Top College Lied” published by Inside Higher Ed details the gap between what test-optional colleges say and what they do.

But here are a few notable parts of confessions from colleges after they went back to test-required:

  • Yale’s dean of undergraduate admissions, Jeremiah Quinlan, said on a recent podcast he became more and more convinced that Yale was not “being honest about the reality of our admissions process to students and parents” because they were “denying 98 percent of the students who are applying without test scores.” Over the past several years, Yale had three times higher admit rate for students who submitted test scores compared to those who didn’t (6 percent versus 2 percent).
  • Cornell’s internal research revealed that, even when holding other factors constant, “submitting test scores significantly increases the likelihood of admission [to its] test-optional colleges.” A summary of the research offers useful advice: “Given this finding, it seems prudent for those applying under the test-optional policy to send in their test scores.”
  • According to Dartmouth’s data, a disadvantaged student with an SAT score between 1450 and 1490 is 3.7 times more likely to get admitted if they submit their score than if they withhold it. 

In short, students do have the equal opportunity to apply to test-optional colleges without submitting their test scores. But, what about actually getting accepted? No equal opportunity there. Good test scores increase a student’s chances of getting accepted.


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