No choice on scores

Yale became the latest school Thursday to dismiss the College Board’s plan to allow students to submit only their top SAT scores from individual exams to colleges.

In its rejection of the College Board’s new Score Choice option, Yale will require applicants to send all their scores for the SAT Reasoning Test and SAT Subject Tests, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel said in a statement Thursday morning. Yale will also require applicants taking the ACT to submit all their score results, Brenzel said.

“We believe that our policy maintains a more level playing field for low-income students who cannot afford repeated testing or the expensive test preparation that often accompanies it,” Brenzel wrote in the statement. “We also hope that this policy will help to discourage excessive testing and help to simplify testing issues for all of our applicants.”

Yale’s policy relies on applicants’ integrity. Students applying to Yale will be on their own honor when submitting all their test scores, and there is no system to police students when submitting test scores, spokespeople for both the ACT and the College Board — which administers the SAT — said.

The admissions office was cognizant of this fact when forming its policy, Brenzel said in a phone interview Thursday evening, adding that students are expected to be truthful in all facets of their application.

“We trust students to be honest when they report their testing as we do with other parts of the application, and of course there may always be consequences of varying kinds if we later discover that the student has misrepresented anything on his or her application,” Brenzel said.

Score Choice, which will first become available for the March SAT, has been a point of contention among Yale’s peer institutions. While Harvard University and the University of Chicago have said they will allow applicants to use Score Choice, Stanford and Cornell universities and the University of Pennsylvania have all said they will require students to send all their scores.

MIT Dean of Admissions Stuart Schmill told the News on Thursday evening that MIT will allow applicants to use the Score Choice policy, thereby joining Harvard and the University of Chicago.

“Score Choice is not likely to have any effect on our process, as the differences that students might realize from taking the test over is pretty much noise to us,” he wrote in an e-mail to the News. “And so we are not planning on asking students to submit all scores.”

Princeton Dean of Admissions Janet Rapelye said Princeton plans to reach a decision regarding Score Choice this month.

Brenzel said the Yale admissions office benefits from seeing all scores in order to make a fair assessment about an applicant, adding that standardized testing is part of a holistic process.

When asked whether Yale looks only at a student’s best standardized testing scores, Brenzel said in an e-mail: “We do give primary consideration to the top scores attained. It can be helpful, though, to know how many times it took to achieve those scores.”

He added that a large number of testing sittings will not necessarily have a positive or negative impact on a student’s application. Rather, each piece of information in an applicant’s file is considered in the context of all other information about him or her, Brenzel said.

A half-dozen college counselors interviewed Thursday offered mixed reactions to Yale’s decision to require all standardized test scores. The only point upon which the counselors could agree is that Score Choice — and the decision of some colleges to reject it — creates a new complication for students in the already elaborate application process.

“It’s another layer students need to be aware of,” said Nancy Beane, a college counselor at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta. “Students need to be proactive to make sure they understand what their schools require.”

But varying policies about Score Choice can create difficulties for low-income applicants, who have limited resources when navigating the admissions process, said Sari Rauscher, director of college counseling at the Waterford School in Salt Lake City.

“You’re favoring the students that have college counselors that can individually sit down with them,” she said. “By default you’re helping those who have test prep and access to good college counseling.”

Low-income students also are eligible for fee waivers on standardized tests, noted one college counselor.

One sitting for the SAT Reasoning Test costs $45, and each SAT Subject Test costs either $29 or $40. One sitting for the ACT with the written section costs $46.

Still, the confusion surrounding Score Choice demonstrates the need for colleges to switch to a testing-optional admissions process, said Robert Schaeffer, public education director for the organization FairTest, which calls for standardized testing reform.

“It’s not Yale that’s doing anything wrong here,” he said. “But we believe that the best route is to drop the test score requirement completely.”

Brenzel said Yale will re-examine its score reporting policies after the end of next year’s admissions cycle.


  • good job

    This is a good decision by Yale. Score Choice is bad for everyone (except the College Board, who makes big money if everyone takes the test six times instead of once or twice…)

    The only thing I worry about is, this does create yet another opportunity for unscrupulous, nervous 18-year-olds to decide to lie on their college applications. But there are already lots of opportunities of that kind anyway.

  • Anonymous

    Aren't you required to have ETS send an official score report? If you don't opt for this new choice, that report should have scores for all of your tests on it.

  • Bob

    Yale's decision is contrary to their present policy of superscoring SAT scores which encourages multiple test takings.

  • Julia

    This is a minor fallacy, but the SAT I costs $25 and the ACT w/ writing is $63 (WITHOUT writing it's $46). I would know…I just registered :)

    But it doesn't really affect the integrity of the article.

    I do, however, feel this is a bad choice on Yale's part.

  • Anonymous

    Bob, this is not completely contrary to the current policy. I don't believe that Yale has a real problem with multiple test takings; they are almost certainly perfectly happy admitting a student who has taken the test two or three times and willing to look at the "best" in each section over these tests. However, Yale is probably less willing to accept a student who has taken the test six times to raise his/her score from 2120 to 2220 and might wonder whether such a student is too obsessed. The new SAT policy only further encourages students to take the test again and again, but doesn't allow Yale to make any distinctions between the hyperobsessed and the normal -- and hence only further encourages kids to become focused on taking and retaking the SAT.

  • Recent Alum

    I agree with Julia; this is another bad choice by the admissions office. The cost of taking the SAT is minimal; if one can take the SAT five times for $125, there really is nothing that prevents even the very poor applicants from taking the SAT multiple times.

    Of course getting SAT tutoring for thousands of dollars is not an option for all applicants, but that is a separate issue that has little to do with Score Choice. Moreover, SAT tutoring adds little value to simply buying a few books for less than $100 and taking practice tests by yourself (which is what I did when I went through the process years ago, since I also didn't way to pay thousands of dollars for a class). Any serious Yale candidate should be disciplined enough to do this (unless they are so incredibly smart as not to require to practice.)

  • Somewhat recent alum

    "Recent Alum" - are you serious? You really think that if taking the SAT five times costs $125, "very poor" applicants will be just as likely as rich ones to fork over $125 and take it five times? That's supposed to be a serious claim?

    Anyway, this was a good decision by Yale not only because of the obvious and large social justice ramifications (since in fact, wealthy, suburban kids are WAY more likely to take the SAT five times than are any other kids), but because it will help everyone by reducing the pressure on high school students to push on obsessively with re-test after re-test, devoting tons of their time and energy in high school to this pursuit with dubious educational value.

    Hopefully, a lot of kids who have already tried the SAT a couple of times, and perhaps improved their score a little, will be more likely to just leave it alone, and say at some point, "you know, my score was okay, and I don't want to look like a score-grubbing psycho, so I'm just going to stop worrying about it at this point, and get on with the rest of my high school extracurricular and academic activities."

    If Yale's decision prompts some kids to do that, it'll be a real service to the applicants and their high schools.

    This Score Choice thing is a scary plot by the College Board to earn more revenue by cynically turning high school into even more of an unending standardized test nightmare than it already is. It's great that Yale is resisting.

  • Adam

    Requiring students to submit all scores GOING FORWARD is Yale's choice, of course, but surely it cannot in good faith do so retroactively. Many students have no doubt taken the SAT or ACT on a lark, just to see how they'd do, acting in reliance on the stated policy of score choice. For Yale to change the rules midstream would unfairly penalize these students. A fair compromise would be to say, henceforth, any and all test scores must be submitted. By the way, an unintended consequence of this policy will be to encourage test preparation, since taking any given test will now be a riskier proposition.