As part our College Q & A guide, we decided to ask your questions to the experts. Here are their answers.
Ekman-Baur, Director of College Counseling, Leysin American School
The College Board, which is headquartered in New York City, has been around for a long time. It is a membership association that was formed in 1900 as the College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB). The College Board is now composed of close to 6,000 schools, colleges, universities, and other educational organizations. The organization sells and provides for the administration of standardized tests used by academically oriented post-secondary education institutions to measure students’ abilities. The College Board offers the PSAT/NMSQT and the SAT Reasoning and Subject tests. The PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test): The PSAT is not used directly by colleges and universities when they make their college admissions decisions. A student’s acceptance or rejection will usually (but not always) take into consideration the SAT or the ACT, which is administered by another organization. It is advisable, however, for a student to take the PSAT. Although the testing takes less time, it is structured in a way similar to the SAT, so that the student can gain a good sense of his/her strengths and weaknesses in this kind of timed multiple-choice test situation. It is important to know that students who do very well when they take the test while in the 11th grade may be eligible for National Merit Scholarship awards or recognition. This recognition can then affect college admission, even though specific PSAT scores are not submitted. The SAT – SAT Reasoning tests are intended to measure a student’s Critical Reading, Writing, and Mathematics capabilities. Many higher education institutions require either the SAT Reasoning test or the ACT as one of their admissions criteria because it is felt that there is a correlation between the standardized test scores and the student’s later college success. The College Board also offers SAT Subject tests, which are required for admission to some institutions. These tests focus specifically on one subject – a language, biology, chemistry, mathematics, etc. There can be considerable differences in the importance which various colleges/universities attribute to the standardized tests in making their admissions decisions and their requirements regarding the tests. A small, but growing, group of colleges/universities, for instance, have decided not to require standardized testing scores (SAT and ACT) from their applicants at all because they feel that the tests are culturally biased and are not representative of a student’s ability to succeed in college. US News & World Report The US News & World Report is a news media outlet which has been publishing under that name since 1948. Since 1983, the organization has published yearly comprehensive rankings of a wide range of colleges/universities, now also including graduate schools, high schools, and other institutions. Many factors are taken into consideration when determining the rankings – types of schools, location, acceptance rate, financial aid offerings, and so on. A student might see some of these factors as being of greater or lesser importance to him/her. There has been considerable controversy over the actual value of rankings, in that it is difficult to fit the human factor into the equation – the personal needs/personality of each student. Just because an institution is highly ranked doesn’t necessarily mean that it would be the best place for any given student to study.
Ekman-Baurm, Director of College Counseling, Leysin American School
Class ranking in high school is an archaic method of measuring students’ achievement. The system is flawed, to say the least, and takes focus away from effectively educating students. The ranking system creates a school environment where students concentrate on competition rather than education. Students who “do their homework” and figure out the system realize that they can take a course for an “easy A” and rank higher than a student who took a more difficult course and received a B. Not only is this unfair, but it discourages students from taking classes that will challenge them to reach their full potential. At schools that have eliminated the class system and instead instituted a “cum laude” program, school officials attest that the new system encourages students. Rather than avoiding difficult classes to help them inch closer to the # 1 position, students feel more free to take classes that will truly maximize their education. Eliminating the ranking system motivates students to work toward fulfilling their potential because it rewards students for their individual achievements. Even if schools do not eliminate the ranking system, something must be done to make the system a more accurate reflection of student performance. As it stands, students who take advanced placement classes are at a disadvantage – they take ore difficult courses than the rest of the student body but receive the same amount of credit in the ranking system as students who take easier classes. If the ranking system remains as it is at many of the nation’s schools then advanced placement classes must receive more weight in the rank calculation (similar to the way in which AP classes are factored into the GPA). While some argue that doing away with the ranking system will produce lazy or stupid students, their claim is inaccurate. Over-achievers will do their bestno matter what. Even without a ranking system students who want to do or be their best will still compete against themselves and other students. Eliminating the ranking system will allow students who may not rank in the top 3 among their classmates to be rewarded and recognized for their individual successes. While schools may stop reporting the class rank, some colleges and scholarship applications request the information. It seems that even though a student’s rank does not reflect how well a student will do in college, some colleges view ranking as an important factor in the making an admission decision. This truly is an issue of what is best for our students. Is being # 1 more important than making sure that a student is prepared for what lies beyond high school? Pigeonholing students sends them a message about their ability. Placing value on a number, rather than the quality of education, we condemn students to mediocrity.