Maybe required testing will make a come-back, maybe some new test will come to dominate SAT and ACT, or maybe (but less likely) standardized testing will disappear. But the middle ground of “send us scores if you want to” won’t be around for too long, because there’s no good reason for it to exist.
Here's a pop quiz for you: what's the difference between Harvard College and Harvard University? I'll answer at the bottom.
But first here's a story. A few weeks ago I was at a conference for educational consultants, in a session about demonstrated interest. One of the presenters gave an interesting example from when he was an admissions officer at a major university in the Mid-West. He said a high school student flew in from the West Coast to do an on-campus interview. That's definitely a sign of demonstrated interest. However, the student ruined it when he said in the interview that he was really excited about studying business. This particular university has a well-known business school for people getting an M.B.A., but doesn't offer business as a major in the undergraduate program. And this, the presenter said, was a negative sign of demonstrated interest. The kid says he's really interested in the school, but doesn't even know they don't offer the major he wants?
I visited New York City over Thanksgiving with extended family. It was a fantastically fun and relaxing trip. On top of all the lights and crowds and excitement, something else really caught my attention. Standing in line one night, I overheard someone in my group say that there has been a 20% decrease in applications to the University of Chicago over the past five years. It has to do, he said, with the growing violence in Chicago. People are scared to go there. (I checked with my wife, and she heard the same thing I did.) My immediate thought was that there is no way there's been a decrease like that to such a prestigious school, no matter what the news reports say about Chicago. But I didn't have any evidence for my argument. And I'd only met this guy, who is really nice and really smart, a few hours earlier. And it's the holidays. So I let it go...
...but I couldn't let it go. This week I did a bit of investigating to learn more about applications and crime near U Chicago. And it turns out he's right. Kind of.
I have students ask me--though maybe in not these exact words--how to go to the right for school for "that competitive edge in the marketplace" if you are really sure of your intended major and career and you're not one of those less-driven, wishy-washy people who will change their mind.
Fine, let's talk about that.