News’ View: Score Choice is the wrong choice

Yale announced yesterday it will not accept the College Board’s new Score Choice option for the SAT — a move that correctly recognizes that the option will elevate, not reduce, the college admissions frenzy.

The new option would allow students who take the SAT more than once to choose to send only their highest score to colleges. It is an echo of an abandoned system that granted students the same freedom for SAT Subject Tests, an option the College Board scrapped in 2002. The College Board was right to eliminate the option then, it is wrong to bring it back for the SAT and SAT Subject Tests now, and Yale is doing the best thing by refusing to accept it for future classes of applicants.

Score Choice, which will be available for tests beginning in March, is not, as the College Board claims, the way to reduce the stress inherent in the admissions process. Instead, it will increase the anxiety of many high school juniors and seniors and disadvantage those applicants whose families cannot afford to pay several hundred dollars for multiple tests.

Allowing students to send only their highest score may benefit students in individual cases. It will allow students who do not work well under pressure the advantage of knowing a poor showing may be corrected later. And it lets every student whose score doesn’t meet his expectations try again, without colleges knowing, to demonstrate how well he can perform.

But Score Choice’s promised disadvantages to students outweigh its benefits.

Under the new system, there will be no disincentive for students who place anywhere shy of 2400 from taking and retaking the test as many times as they can over their final years of high school. There will be no reason not to study for months, repeatedly, to try to best a previous score, whether high or low.

Except, that is, for the cost. For many families, the cost of each SAT test is not a hardship. But it is for tens of millions of college-aspiring students and their parents. Such families will be pressured into additional testing costs, or else face an increased competitive disadvantage to students from families for whom the tests’ costs are not an issue.

A student with a disappointing score — whether 1700, 2000 or 2300 — may jump at the opportunity to try again. But will that be the best for him, or for the collective body of college applicants across the country or for Yale itself?

Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel correctly identified the answer to this question as a resounding “no.” We have supported Brenzel’s attempts in recent years to reduce the frenzy associated with college admissions, from his public opposition to the U.S. News & World Report rankings to his refusal to artificially drive up application numbers. This decision likewise represents a principled stand against unnecessary angst and for equal access.

Harvard, among other schools, made the wrong decision when it announced earlier this month that it would accept Score Choice. Yale is not the first to make the right decision (Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania are among those that have announced they will reject the new option), but it is right to do so. We are proud to stand with Brenzel in rejecting Score Choice and the premises that accompany it, and we hope other colleges follow suit.

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