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SAT subject tests are NOT truly optional for middle/upper middle class applicants at elite colleges!

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Replies to: SAT subject tests are NOT truly optional for middle/upper middle class applicants at elite colleges!

  • skieuropeskieurope 37369 replies6486 discussionsSuper Moderator Posts: 43,855 Super Moderator
    edited October 2017
    @penn95 I'm not disagreeing with your rationale for some colleges. In fact I expounded upon it on the first page of this thread. However when viewed against schools like Harvard, Princeton, Stanford which say that the tests are optional and can show areas of strength yadda yadda, Penn states that not sending will not impact the decision. If they did not explicitly state that, I would have agreed with you entirely.

    Having said that, I would imagine that many applicants to Penn are also applying to schools where "recommended" means "required" and have therefore taken Subject Tests. So the cynic in me comes out when a user asks the question on the Penn forum, since I assume that the underlying question is "Should I send my sub-standard scores?"

    I'm sort of glad then when I applied to colleges 3 years ago that Subject Tests were required for some of my schools. It was just easier not worrying about what scores to send where - I just sent everything to everyone.
    edited October 2017
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  • ProfessorMom1ProfessorMom1 367 replies15 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 382 Member
    edited October 2017
    @4junior Dumb question, but where does one find the SAT/ACT target of a school? I see the common data sets with the average and the 50% range, but not sure how to glean "target" percentage from that. Again, probably a dumb question!
    edited October 2017
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  • Penn95Penn95 2283 replies78 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 2,361 Senior Member
    edited October 2017
    @skieurope I think they explicitly say that for the same reasons I mentioned above. One is to make it abundantly clear to low-income students that they are not at a disadvantage. the second is to nudge the kids who are not as prepared to take a chance and send in an application. Of course they couldn't officially say "oh for the middle class and up folks subject tests are required while for low-income kids they are truly optional." So they explicitly say that there is no disadvantage to make sure they capture those low income kids, who might be otherwise reluctant to apply, and in the process they also get quite a few naive middle class/upper middle class kids who now think that subject tests are truly optional because the website says so.
    edited October 2017
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  • 4junior4junior 244 replies9 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 253 Junior Member
    @ProfessorMom1 No question is dumb on these forums!

    Under the admissions section of their websites most schools will have a stats portion about the incoming class of students. This reflects no only those offered admittance, but those attending, so it is an extremely useful gauge of the academic fit of the school to your child. Some list the median score. Most list the 25-75% scores - also know as the Mid-50 - meaning 50% of students attending score within that range. Realistically the 25% range is often hooked applicants: URM, legacy, First Gen, Geography etc. If your stats match the 25% and you don't have something else in your app thats a push the likelihood of admittance is slim.

    Note: I suggest using the actual college website to find this info. Sites like Prepscholar have much higher numbers, coincidently they are also trying to sell test prep programs!

    Heres a quote from a NY Times article quoted the admissions director at Midd:
    "It’s not unusual for the middle 50 percent of our entering classes to have SAT scores on each of the tests from the mid-600s to mid-700s. That is to say that if your scores are in that range, they will probably have a “neutral” effect on your candidacy at the nation’s most selective colleges. If your scores are higher than that, you may be at an advantage in the admissions process at those colleges, but by no means guaranteed of being admitted. If they are lower, you are probably at a disadvantage, but again, not necessarily out of the running."

    D took subject tests but didn't do as well as hoped. (She's the kind of kid that regularly scores 100 pts lower on the day she takes the actual test that matters vs taking a practice test in a test center... ugh!). Her scores were just below the 50% SAT median for the school she is ED1 so her CC told her it was best not to submit the scores as they would hinder not help. Meaning it was better to 'not show' than to 'show average'.

    I think for large schools with many applicants the process is driven more by numbers than at smaller schools and in those cases subject tests may be warranted. All Ivys want subject tests, most elite publics do too.

    Not a single school D applied to "recommended" subject tests (all small LAC). When D took the practice test and scored in the 90%+ range CC told her thats great but its "not going to really matter very much". So while she was bummed when she did not do as well on the real test she was not crushed. She had time to re-take but CC told her not to bother.

    I do agree that for upper middle class kids there is an expectation of students knowing about them and taking them. I do think that by not submitting you are implying that you did not do well on them but I doubt that not submitting them to a school where they are "considered" will put your app directly in the no pile. If you have time certainly take them. If you do great on them then yes - submit!
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  • JSa2c24JSa2c24 11 replies3 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 14 New Member
    @skieurope @Penn95 Hey sorry to bother you but I was just checking the prep scholar chart you guys recommended and noticed UPenn was marked as considered. DO you think this is truly accurate or would they fall more in the recommended camp. I took the test but didn't score so hot so I didn't send and am retaking in December but was just curious if there is any chance for me to get in without them as it is "considered"
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  • skieuropeskieurope 37369 replies6486 discussionsSuper Moderator Posts: 43,855 Super Moderator
    @JSa2c24 I believe @Penn95 and I have differing opinions on the subject.

    First off, Prepscholar is a secondary source - they are making their interpretations on the primary source (which is Penn's}.

    Penn says:
    SAT Subject Tests are recommended but not required. Applicants who do not take SAT Subject Tests will not be at a disadvantage in the admissions process.
    http://www.admissions.upenn.edu/apply/whatpennlooksfor/testing

    Having said that, since you "took the test but didn't score so hot," there may be other weaknesses in your application. So while not submitting Subject Tests may not hurt per se, the lack of them may bring something else to light that will hurt, IMO. But we're mot AO's, so all you can do is submit the best package you can and then wait. Good luck.
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  • JSa2c24JSa2c24 11 replies3 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 14 New Member
    @skieurope Ok cool thanks. I honestly don't think I have any other flaws in my app test wise as I have a 4.0UW 4.3 weighted and 35 conpsoite single sitting ACT. I just wasn't doing so well at the time I took the tests so I wasn't in the best frame of mind when I took them. I am retaking them in december and should do much bettwr, but as that is after the penn deadline for ED I was just trying to see if I could have a chance for penn without the scores.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 76112 replies663 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 76,775 Senior Member
    Even students from lower income or disadvantaged backgrounds need to be top-end achievers within the context of their backgrounds when it comes to the most selective colleges. So choosing to avoid recommended items that one knows about and finds available is not going to look good, even if the college understands that some other applicants may not have heard about them or found them available.
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  • EliteFireEliteFire 16 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 16 Junior Member
    edited December 2017
    The third paragraph of post #47 rings quite true to me. @skieurope
    As a matter of fact, even with all the superfluous language, I sent all my scores to some of my schools.

    I am currently applying to elite schools as a performing artist and have somewhat assumed SAT 2s are required. I have no reason not to take them, so why not. Granted, I do better on AP tests and in academic classes than subject tests but oh well. :)

    I mean if a school wants to reject me because of one or two sub-par one-hour test scores, I cannot stop them.
    edited December 2017
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  • CU123CU123 3263 replies55 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,318 Senior Member
    I disagree with the OP'S assertion in its entirety.

    1. The elite schools are need blind so they DON'T KNOW YOUR INCOME AND THEY DON'T GUESS, so how do they know your income to see if you "should have submitted them"
    2. Admissions officers have repeatedly claimed they will not hurt your chances if the tests are optional.
    3. Admission officers state these are the least considered out of all standardized tests and are useful for students who have received something other than an A in the subject to show mastery of a subject.
    4. All this doesn't apply if they require the tests.
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  • sbjdorlosbjdorlo 4878 replies386 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 5,264 Senior Member
    I actually think the elite schools' admissions offices *do* know who's Pell Grant. I believe that my son got into Penn based on a number of factors including the fact that he was a Pell Grant recipient. He was a decent applicant, but was "below average" for Penn admits.

    I've always assumed my theory was correct, but I'm going to confirm that with a colleague (I'm an independent college consultant, and I refer many of my students to this colleague) who worked in financial aid for many years-and who works as a financial aid consultant. I'll share what she says.

    As far as my son goes, he submitted two SAT II scores to Penn, 730 Math II and 710 Literature. Decent scores, but not overwhelming, but he applied as a Fine Arts major, so I thought it was fine.
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  • IvyGrad09IvyGrad09 234 replies5 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 239 Junior Member
    Check the school website. Columbia U, for example, has evolved recently from requiring both the written section and subject tests, to not requiring either:

    They clearly state that you are not required to submit them and "you will not be at a disadvantage if you don't."

    The impression is that if you took the subject tests and had extraordinary scores and wanted to send them, you can. As they say, "we will accept your results should you choose to send them."

    I would interpret that as being entirely up to the candidate.

    At our admissions meeting with the director at Columbia (we two among 100s,) he made it very clear that CU was moving away from total College Board obsequience. We attended the general info session, the Science Day info session, and the URM session--that message was consistent.

    That was also my take away from several other college/uni info sessions.
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  • CU123CU123 3263 replies55 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,318 Senior Member
    Well that would make Penn admissions undeniably an organization that lies. I doubt they think thats worth their reputation.
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