Peabody is the building, Jack is the dog, and I'm Dean J (she/her, btw).

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Friday, January 22, 2021

The Impact of SAT Changes on #UVA Admission

The College Board made some changes to their standardized testing public earlier this week. They will stop administering the SAT Subject Tests and SAT Essay in June. The Subject Tests haven't been all that influential in our process in many years. We never shifted to using the SAT Essay when it was introduced in 2005. To me, the announcement wasn't a big deal and it wasn't a surprise. Plenty of admission officers and school counselors have predicted that the Subject Tests wouldn't exist in the future. Applicants don't even ask me about those exams all that much.

Imagine my surprise when I started doing my morning review of social media and saw worried students writing post after post on reddit's Applying to College subforum about the announcement. Some of the same chatter was on other social channels. I'm going to address the three big questions I saw raised.


1. How does this change the admission review process?

Very little. I joked with one student that this might save us about 3 seconds here and there. The results of a one-hour, optional exam were never all that impactful. It takes a couple seconds to glance at test scores. The bulk of our time is spent on the other parts of the application.

2. How will students show deep depth and understand of specific subjects?

Subject Tests didn't give me the information I needed about a student's preparation in each subject area. That's what the transcript did. I'm more interested in sustained classroom performance than a test score. After all, we are building a community of scholars here. We want people who will contribute to classroom discussions, not people who just show up on test day.

3. Will this Make the SAT More Important?

I can see where this idea comes from. A lot of students assume the different parts of the application are assigned weighting in a rubric or formula, so they think that removing one item from the testing piece would make other items in that category more important. If you're a longtime reader, you know that I cringe a little when "weight" comes into the conversation because we don't have a rubric here. We don't assign a score to the different parts of the application. The SAT won't have any more prominence in the future than it did in the past. The transcript (3+ years of coursework and grades, not GPAs) remains the most important part of your application.


As always, I'm happy to answer questions in the comments below.

If you need a laugh, check out my story about taking the French exam from back in our "recommended" days. I still shudder over that.