Week 4: the fairness of US’ college admission process

As I was preparing a discussion for our class by searching and reading various articles, I began to realize the problems that American college admission process now has. In the general admission process to a college, you need to submit your SAT scores, high school GPA grades, the list of extracurricular activities, etc. But, are these tools really functioning well? Is the entry process of college fair enough for every American student? These given articles and books provide me with a lot of insights and information to understand what is really going on in the US college admission process.

I was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea. To go to a college or university in Korea, every Korean student must take a kind of Korean SAT (KSAT). As most of the US colleges do, many Korean colleges consider the KSAT scores as the most critical factor when it comes to admission. Then, what happens? Every student pushes themselves to get as the highest SAT scores as they can, therefore leading to more competition. In my time of entering a college was not much different from the current competitive situation regarding the KAST. Even though I was a very diligent student and studied hard in every class at every level of school, and I had good high school GPA grades, I needed to raise up my KSAT scores to prove my academic abilities to enter a good university. So, these KSAT scores were always my concern. As a matter of fact, most Korean parents were and are the same with me. There are numerous Korean parents whose first priority is sending their children to prestigious universities. So, they spend a lot of money to help their kids attend prep academies for getting high KSAT scores, providing them with good tutoring programs. But, as you can imagine, the privilege of getting good KSAT tutoring programs is limited to many low-income family students. And I think I was one of those who were not privileged for it.

I think the same phenomenon is happening in the US. As a student’s SAT score is a significant part of most college admission processes, there are still many controversial issues about the test’s fairness. From the price of SAT to the problematic, expensive tutoring programs in many states, the SAT has always been a hot button issue in the college entry process. Recently, the adversity score, which indicates the obstacles a student might have overcome, like crime and poverty, faced a lot of criticisms. Although the College Board, the company that administers the SAT exam, withdrew this new policy due to rising criticisms, the effort to make the test fairer is still going on.

What about the high school GPA grades? Are the GPA grades good measurements to evaluate a promising student for a college? I found out there are many GPA inflations taking place in numerous US high schools. How can we resolve this problem? Should we use GPA grades for college admissions when we know GPA is losing its credibility?

Even for extracurricular activities, I know taking those activities costs a lot of money. Isn’t it then fair not to refer to the list of students’ extracurricular activities for admission? How can we change the use of the list for the reliable admission process?  

I think there are many things that we can discuss in the class regarding college admission fairness. I don’t think we all should try to go to prestigious colleges and universities. As many CUNY colleges are doing great jobs in social mobility, I think a need to go to a highly selective college would not mean much. Then, what about CUNY’s admission process? If the admission standards of Harvard show severe exclusion, is CUNY’s admission standards fair enough? We may discuss these things in the class.

2 thoughts on “Week 4: the fairness of US’ college admission process

  1. Matt Brim

    Thanks for sharing your experience with standardized testing in South Korea. It might be interesting to conduct a cross-cultural comparative analysis of standardized testing in different countries. Are there any initiatives similar to an adversity score in South Korea?

  2. Katina Rogers (she/her)

    Thank you for sharing this reflection, David. I mentioned on Jess’s post that I’d be interested in spending some time discussing evaluation today, both of prospective students and of academic work more broadly. We lean heavily on quantifiable measures, for understandable reasons—but can we envision something different?

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