Monday, September 7, 2009

Score Choice...Misnomer?

What’s so great about Score Choice, the new College Board reporting policy that allows high school seniors to choose which of their SAT standardized test scores to send to colleges? After the initial excitement and fanfare many have concluded: perhaps not much.

Last year the College Board announced its plan to introduce the concept of Score Choice, allowing students for the first time to be selective about which SAT scores to send to colleges. The new reporting rules became effective beginning with the senior class graduating in 2010. The reason for the change in policy, according to the College Board, was an effort to “reduce student stress and improve the test day experience.” In actual practice, Score Choice is not as simple as originally hoped,and therefore, is not working exactly as initially planned. Individual colleges, it turns out, will still determine their own requirements that trump anything dictated by the College Board, suggesting that simplification and stress reduction could not be further from the truth.

And right from the start the program has had its critics. Is Score Choice just a ploy to increase fees to the College Board as students feel the need to take the tests multiple times in an effort to maximize their scores? Does the new policy further discriminate against less economically fortunate students who can afford neither test prep nor the registration fee for multiple test sittings?

Shortly after the initial announcement colleges started weighing in too. One by one many highly selective schools quickly made clear that regardless of the College Board directive, they would still require that applicants submit all scores. After all, most colleges state that they super score anyway, meaning they take the highest SAT section score from all test sittings. Why then would a student not want to submit all scores, especially if the highest math score was achieved in May and the best critical reading score happened to be from the September test date? Isn’t submitting all scores really to the student’s advantage?

If you are looking for the simplest way to track down different colleges’ requirements, you can go to where you will also find explanations of the 6 score reporting options from which colleges and universities must choose. For the student who can readily grasp the nuances of each of these Score-Use Practices based upon the written explanation (the word “obtuse” comes to mind), automatic admission to the college of choice might be a reasonable prize. One caveat: the best source for determining an individual college's requirement is the college itself. If its policy is not posted on the website, do not hesitate to give the admission office a call.

I am not trying to intentionally bash the College Board. Rather, I want to point out that the complicated new policy has actually raised the stress level as students and families try to figure it out, especially when kids are applying to multiple schools that don't follow the same Score-Use Practice. So what is the solution? My advice to all students is to forget that Score Choice was ever offered as an option. Give it your best shot each time you take the SAT and send all of your scores!

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