Studying for and taking the SATs are a rite of passage for college-bound high school students, but a new study is casting doubt on the usefulness of this high-stakes exam. At colleges and universities that have made the submission of SAT scores optional, students who did not submit scores had a cumulative GPA only 0.05 percent lower and a college graduation rate just 0.6 percent lower than students who did submit scores.
The study, “Defining Promise: Optional Standardized Testing Policies in American College and University Admissions,” which tracked almost 123,000 students at 33 very different colleges and universities, found that what did matter were high school grades. Applicants’ grades in high school were the best predictor of their success in college.
NPR spoke with study author William Hiss, former dean of admissions at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, about his study. “The scores, while they still certainly can help spot a highly talented person coming out of a different sort of a background … serve more to truncate access than to open it,” he said.
Washington State University Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment John Fraire, whose university took part in the study, told NPR, “In some ways, it’s discouraging students who have great potential for success [from applying to] a particular school. Most of our students [at WSU] aren’t from privileged backgrounds. They’re from the rural communities, the inner-city Latino community, African-American community. And that’s why I think this study is so important.”