Increase in College Applications and the New SAT—Correlation or Causation?

March 13, 2017 

college-applications-and-the-new-SAT.jpgThe Daily Pennsylvanian, the University of Pennsylvania’s award-winning student newspaper, recently ran an article with the intriguing first sentence, “The number of applicants to the Penn class of 2021 is the most ever—did the new SAT play a role?”

The article notes the concurrence of the new SAT with a record number of applications (40,394) for this coming year’s freshman class. The piece’s author, Brian Zhong, raises some interesting points. Most of these concern the lack of data surrounding the new test. Students are quoted pointing out that there are far fewer study and practice materials available than there were for the old SAT (which is understandable). In addition, admissions officers do not yet know if the new test gives them reliable insight into how well incoming freshmen will do academically. However, an answer to the leading question does not appear in the article.

The increase in college applications and the new SAT, in fact, may not correlate at all, but may simply be part of an increase in the number of applications universities are receiving nationwide. Two local universities, Temple and Villanova, both ran articles last year touting their numbers (“Temple Shatters Record for Freshman Applications” and “Incoming Class Applications Set New Record”). Neither article dwelt on the changes in the SAT, although Temple’s Senior Vice Provost William Black mentioned that SAT scores for admitted freshmen had gone up. However, he also pointed out that GPAs for that group had risen as well.

The Daily Princetonian obligingly took a survey of the Ivies last December. Every school listed reported an increase in applications. Terms like “record-breaking” and significant” were used. Any link to standardized testing was not addressed.

How does the new SAT test impact current high school seniors applying to college? There you are, working your hardest, and then you come across an article with a disquieting headline like The Washington Post’s “Why Your New SAT Score Is Not As Strong As You Think It Is.” This article, published last May, focuses on score inflation on the new test. It raises the possibility that more students are scoring higher because the new SAT is easier. An example, according to author Nick Anderson, is that “a new 1200 corresponds to an old 1130.” Should you be concerned? Will your score on the new SAT be valued less than another student’s identical score on the old SAT?

Not to worry. The SAT is still a level playing field. All stakeholders involved—test makers, teachers, tutors, and admissions officers—are committed to making sure every student is evaluated fairly. For example, some schools are using concordance tables to compare new SAT scores with the old scores, as well as with ACT scores. Concordance tables allow admissions officers to convert old scores to new and vice versa. It is important to note that the motive for using concordance tables is to make sure no particular student has an unfair advantage over other applicants, no matter what test he or she has taken. Penn’s Dean of Admissions, Eric Furda, also reminds readers that “we’re going to use all the information that we always have . . . a student’s high school courses [and] the grades that they received.”

Remember, your A+ tutor is always here to work with you to help make the testing process as easy and stress-free as possible so that you can focus on achieving your “personal best.”

If you would like more information on anything related to testing, our Client Service Directors—Anne Stanley and Susan Ware—are available to answer questions, provide solutions, and assist you in achieving your educational goals.. You may reach them by calling A+ Test Prep and Tutoring at 215-886-9188.

Photo credit: Flood G. 





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