A few days ago, I sat down to take the ACT for the first time. Almost five hours later I emerged from the test, my head swimming with all the science, reading, and math questions I didn’t know.
During junior and senior years of high school, as students begin thinking about college admissions, they often find themselves filled with dread. Between regular homework, touring colleges and maintaining extracurriculars, there is a lot to think about. But one of the biggest concerns during those two years is the college admission tests—the SAT/ACTs.
Throughout high school, we are told these daunting tests are a major factor in our college admissions, and we need to do extremely well in order to have our applications even considered. This is something that has always bothered me—why do colleges put so much stock into these standardized tests? It doesn’t seem to be the most accurate way to measure someone’s intelligence. I have some friends who struggle with this format of testing, while others excel, yet they are all equally bright. Why should our college admission decisions be dependent on our ability to take a four-hour test?
While I do question this method, I have also begun to realize one distinct benefit of standardized testing. I go to an all girls orthodox high school and, as those people who have a dual curriculum might agree, that means a lot of non-secular classes. I am currently enrolled in 16 classes, yet only about six of them are secular courses. While I personally love all my Judaic classes, I realize that my high school transcript might be confusing to some secular colleges I might decide to apply to.
I guess this is where standardized testing comes into play. For people like me, the SAT/ACTs are the best way to show where I am academically. I may have gotten an A+ in Hatznea Leches, but that does not mean anything to the secular world. The ACT, however, is something that everyone takes, and therefore my score can be understood by any college I apply to.
So, while I do have doubts about the process and recognize that standardized testing may not be the perfect way to gauge where a person is academically, it is the most universal system that we have. Colleges need a way to equalize all their applications, so they can compare students from different schools and backgrounds. In the end, the hope is that colleges look at the whole application when deciding on admissions, and therefore everyone’s strengths will be able to shine through.
Elisheva Saltzberg is a junior at Hanna Sacks Bais Yaakov in Chicago.