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Last week the Harvard University admissions office announced that applicants will no longer be required to submit the essay portion from the SAT or ACT. Students applying to Harvard will still be required to submit essays as part of the application, but not the essay attached to either standardized test.
It is too early to know what the Harvard announcement means. Is it foreshadowing, the admissions equivalent of a minor character on a television medical drama who innocently coughs before the first commercial break and is guaranteed to be on life support by the second commercial break?
In the past 10 to 15 years, the SAT itself has undergone two radical changes -- almost as many changes as what the A in SAT stands for.
But are the changes driven by educational philosophy or market share?
The new version of the SAT that year, which added a third section and changed the score from a scale to a scale although everyone I know still used the scalewas on one hand an attempt to align the test with what students were being taught in school; several stories at the time postulated that the College Board was trying to establish a national curriculum.
The addition of an essay was a strong message about the importance of writing in the curriculum.
Atkinson was probably personally responsible for the end of analogies as a type of test question, something some of us still mourn. The addition of an essay to the SAT was far from a popular and critical hit.
The third section added nearly an hour to the testing time, turning the SAT into a test of stamina as much as academic aptitude or knowledge. It made the test more expensive. But there were also significant critiques of the essay format itself.
Some argued that a minute essay written in response to a prompt the student has never seen before does not measure in any meaningful way the kind of writing that students in college are expected to produce. A related criticism was that the essay format encouraged and rewarded the bland five-paragraph essay.
A more substantial criticism concerned how the essays were graded, with two independent contractors spending two or three minutes per essay to give a grade on a one-to-six scale and graders who read the most essays per hour receiving a bonus.
All of my students seemed to get a combined score of eight to 11, no matter how good or poor a writer they were. Consistency of grading has also recently been an issue for the ACT essay.
Perelman did research showing a strong correlation between length of essay and good score. Coleman had been the primary architect behind the development of the Common Core standards, and his appointment to the CB came at a time when the SAT was losing market share to the ACT and the battleground between the two was becoming state assessments rather than college admission testing.
When the College Board decided to implement the most recent overhaul of the SAT, the third section, which included the essay, was dropped, and the essay became optional.
Those essays can certainly offer a control for admissions officers worried about how much outside help and editing is taking place on application essays. It will also be interesting to see how the testing agencies respond.
Bio Jim Jump is the academic dean and director of college counseling at St. He has been at St.The college admissions process can be intimidating, but is also an exciting opportunity to showcase your talents, achievements, and perspective.
From SAT and ACT scores to admissions essays, recommendation letters, and scholarships, this collection will help guide you to an acceptance letter.
Applicants to HBS must have the following: A 4-year undergraduate degree or its equivalent. Conquering the College Admissions Essay in 10 Steps, Second Edition: Crafting a Winning Personal Statement 2nd Edition. According to the College Board report Admissions Decision-Making Models, admission officers have expressed concern about how much assistance students receive in preparing an essay.
Many institutions now ask applicants to sign a statement avowing that the essay submitted is their own work. Middlebury College is a private institution that was founded in It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 2,, its setting is rural, and the campus size is acres.
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