Grads Explain: How standardized tests affect college applications


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Trinity Graduates have interesting opinions about standardized tests and how much they matter after high school.

Check out part 1 of this series: Students Explain: Why student intelligence goes beyond a test score

Standardized tests are a fixture in high schools across the country. All year, students take difficult classes and study hard in order to pass various standardized tests – including the SATs, AP exams and Keystone exams. But how much do these tests really matter in college applications after high school?

“If I didn’t take the SAT, my school work would have stood fine on its own for Penn State, but I chose to take the SAT because I felt like my scores on it would help me stand out even more. Additionally, for the more competitive schools I applied and was accepted to, I wanted to show that I earned my GPA and it wasn’t just due to inflation,” Trinity graduate Julia Faust explained.

Faust believes that her SAT scores partially helped her to get into college, but acknowledged that other parts of her application were important as well. 

As of 2021, standardized testing still remains a big part of the college admissions process. However, with the recent pandemic some schools have chosen to go “test optional” for the upcoming school year. Depending on how the next class of college students perform, there is the possibility that the admissions process will stay “test optional” in the future. 

Faust argues that keeping SATs optional will be a smart approach in future years:  “Taking standardized tests should definitely not be a requirement, but if a student feels like they can show an additional side to them that is not reflected in their extracurriculars, they should be allowed to use the SATs to demonstrate it.”

An advantage of standardized testing is that the tests can compare students academically across a common standard. Every student is tested in the same areas and in the same way. 

But even with this common standard, not every student performs well on tests. College admissions also take into account students who they think will excel in their chosen field, as demonstrated by their choice of athletics, clubs, volunteering, jobs or another area that the student is applying for. 

Trinity teachers overall tend to do a good job of preparing their students for success on SAT and AP exams. Many junior and senior students go into their exams already familiar with the expectations and content, even if they are a few years removed from certain subjects. Trinity also offers an SAT prep course for anyone who wants extra practice studying for SATs. 

“I  remember vividly how much Mrs. Cotton’s AP Calculus class helped me master my algebra skills in order for me to do well on the math section (of the SATs),” Trinity graduate Ann Kozak stated. 

Kozak and Faust both took the SATs twice in order to achieve a higher score. Both also focused on the areas where their first score was weaker in the days leading up to their second test. 

Overall, it is important to remember that test scores on their own are not a reflection of who a student is as a person. Some schools only use standardized test scores in order to slim down their pool of applicants. What matters most is how students stand out and differentiate themselves with their different passions and identities.